Things went basically by the way that last year’s NCAA Championship rankings implied they would this afternoon in Gainesville, Florida: the Georgia women topped the Florida women by a score of 162-138, while the Florida men took the victory in their meet by a handy 179-119.
The meet featured 37 All-Americans and 10 Olympians in a truly titanic showdown.
Things started off well for the Florida men, and they very nearly took a 1-2 in the 200 medley relay. The race was very tight between Georgia’s A-relay, and the Florida A&B relays, headed into the last , but ultimately senior sprinter Bradley deBorde was too much for anyone to hold onto on the anchor, splitting 19.71. The Florida men won in 1:28.65, and Georgia took 2nd in 1:29.03.
For the Gators, that was just off of their season best, and their third time under 1:29 so far this season: a repeat performance that is only matched by the defending NCAA Champions from Michigan.
In a bit of a surprise performance, and the first indicator that this was going to be a good day for Florida, they went 1-2 in the men’s 1000 free against Georgia’s impressive distance group.
Sophomore Arthur Frayler was a 9:04.53, the second-best time in the country this year, and freshman Mitch D’Arrigo was a 9:07.53 for the runner-up position.
National Teamer Andrew Gemmell took 3rd for Georgia in 9:10.34.
The Bulldogs came back and won the 200 free in the next event, as sophomore Matias Koski topped Florida star Sebastien Rousseau 1:36.16-1:36.53. Florida’s Dan Wallace took 3rd in 1:38.99.
Koski would win both of his individual events on Friday; he also took the 500 free in 4:22.50, beating Florida’s D’Arrigo (4:24.78) and Gemmell (4:27.52).
In the 100 backstroke, Florida’s Christian-Paul Homer took a big win in an NCAA “B” cut of 48.42, followed by his teammate Corey Main in 48.51. Main is the favorite to hold the medley relay position for the Gators this year, but with how well Homer swam on Friday, that’s no sure-thing. Homer beat Main by half-a-second on the relay lead-off as well.
Georgia’s highest finisher was Ty Stewart, who was just .01 seconds behind Main in 48.52.
The Gators ran their early-meet winning streak to four-out-of-five on the men’s side, when Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez won in 54.28, and Matt Elliott took 2nd in 54.80. American World Championship qualifier Nic Fink was 3rd in 54.87, just behind Elliott.
Georgia’s star Chase Kalisz won the 200 fly in 1:43.55, holding off Florida’s national-championship contender (and last year’s NCAA runner-up) Marcin Cieslak who was a 1:43.80. Those are the two fastest times in the country so far this year.
When Kalisz was a 1:45.4 against LSU two weeks ago, it was a lifetime best and showed how much he was improving his butterfly. This swim, then, becomes really game-changing.
DeBorde followed his relay anchor with an equally-impressive win in the 50 free, going 20.12 for the win. Georgia, who is hurting this year by the transfer of their top sprint prospect, still managed to get a second-place finish from Michael Trice in 20.72.
Coming out of the diving break, deBorde won again with a 44.61 in the 100 yard free. This time, it was a Florida 1-2, with Matt Curby taking 2nd in 45.72, and Trice again was tops for the Bulldogs in 45.90.
In the 200 backstroke, which Homer rarely swims, Main won in 1:45.67. He and Georgia’s Ty Stewart were in a dead-heat into the final 50 yards, but Main just escaped with the win by about three-tenths of a second.
Kalisz was back in the water, and back on top, with a 1:57.20 in the 200 yard breaststroke. It wouldn’t seem there are many guys in the country who, on November 1st, can go 1:43 in the 200 fly and 1:57 in the 200 breaststroke, and that’s why Kalisz is the favorite to repeat as the NCAA Champion in the 400 IM.
Florida’s Matt Elliott wasn’t far behind, though, in 1:57.61, and he closed on the back-half of the race. Solaeche-Gomez took 2nd in 1:58.70.
Cieslak wasn’t to be beat in the 100 fly, where he’s also the defending NCAA Champion, and took the victory in 47.68. Homer was 2nd in 47.90, and Rousseau was 3rd in 48.65 to complete a Gator 1-2-3 finish.
Georgia’s top finisher was Stewart in 49.18, and the Bulldogs’ incumbent for the medley relay Doug Reynolds was 6th in 49.47.
Kalisz wrapped his individual swims with a third individual win (he was the only triple-winner of the meet) again winning a heads-up battle with Cieslak. Kalisz swam a 1:45.23 to Cieslak’s 1:45.83. The two swim very similar races, though Cieslak perhaps goes out a hair faster and Kalisz is a better breaststroker. Neither is a great backstroker still, but both are good enough in the other three events to shoot for ‘easy speed’ there.
The Gators got out to a big early lead, and built it on each leg, to win the 400 free relay in 2:57.74, just half-a-second from their season best.
Florida’s relay was deBorde (44.84), Rousseau (44.28), Main (43.87), and Curby (44.75). Georgia was well back in 3:03.26, though things would have been closer if they had swapped out Stewart, Dale, or Reynolds for a tired Kalisz on the anchor. As it was, their best split came from Trice on a rolling-start 44.87.
Florida’s Zach Hernandez swept the diving events, though Georgia’s Spencer Madanay (10 points behind) made the 1-meter relatively close.
The women’s meet started off with a very tightly-contested medley relay as well, but this time it was Georgia who won. Olivia Smoliga, Melanie Margalis, Lauren Harrington, and Jessica Graber swam to a 1:39.80, with Florida taking 2nd in 1:40.15.
Florida again had the better anchor (sophomore Natalie Hinds split 22.22), but Georgia’s front-half of Smoliga (25.14) and Margalis (27.90) left too big of a margin to be made up.
The Gators got on the board in the 1000 free, where Olympian Elizabeth Beisel won in 9:38.49, with Georgia’s top distance swimmer Amber McDermott taking 2nd in 9:44.40.
That’s the best time in the country so far for Beisel (McDermott now ranks 3rd), and Beisel has both the #1 and #3 times nationally this season. That’s notable, given that she didn’t swim this race once in the entire 2013-2014 season.
In the 200 free, Georgia’s Melanie Margalis won in 1:46.92, beating her teammates MacLean (1:47.76) and McDermott (1:47.83). Those two were both coming off back-to-backs, though with the men’s 1000 in between, they still had a bit of recovery time.
Margalis is having a true breakthrough season in the freestyles. She’s already twice been faster than she was all of last season, and is swimming this race as well as she has since her freshman year. Not that Georgia is ever in a deficit for 200 freestylers, but after the graduations of Romano and Schmitt, Margalis (typically a breaststroker/IM’er) is looking like a fantastic replacement for the defending champion 800 free relay. This was her best time of the season.
Florida’s Sinead Russell ran away with the 100 back in 53.49, with Georgia’s Smoliga taking 2nd in 54.43. That is Russell’s best time of the season, and bumps her into the top 5 in the country. That’s the best time of Smoliga’s young college career as well.
Annie Zhu took the 100 breaststroke for Georgia in 1:02.29, ahead of Florida’s lone real breaststroke threat Hilda Luthersdottir (1:03.20) and Georgia freshman Emily Cameron (1:03.38). Nobody really made a big move on the front-half of this race, but Zhu’s big back-half was really impressive.
Beisel grabbed her 2nd win, taking the 200 fly in 1:56.80. Georgia’s Hali Flickinger was 2nd in 1:57.25, and the defending NCAA runner-up Lauren Harrington took 3rd in 1:59.88.
Hinds, in her first individual action after a long break post her great medley swim, won the 50 free in 23.01 (Graber was 2nd in 23.23) and then again took first in the 100 free with a 49.47 (Smoliga was 2nd in 49.77). Ellese Zalewski was 3rd in 50.67.
Russell, with Beisel focusing elsewhere, won the 200 back to double-up on her earlier win in the 100 with a 1:55.58. Margalis was 2nd there in 1:56.35, and Georgia’s Hali Flickinger took 3rd in 1:57.47.
Zhu, like her fellow sophomore Russell, picked up a stroke sweep as well. She won the 200 breast in 2:14.40, again ahead of Luthersdottir (2:15.67) and Cameron (2:16.61).
Beisel took a third win, this time in the 500 free, but it wasn’t quite as easily as her previous two. She was a 4:43.32, but was almost run down by Georgia’s McDermott, who finished 2nd in 4:43.57.
Beisel is a very good distance freestyler, but at the college level has never put a ton of emphasis on it. It’s hard to calculate which race she might drop for the 500 or the 1650 at NCAA’s, but she is definitely racing these distance events more (and perhaps better) than normal, so keep an eye on it.
Hinds joined Beisel as triple winners with a 54.66 in the 100 yard fly, going 54.66 ahead of Harrington’s 55.01.
Margalis kept Russell from joining that group, as the Georgia senior beat the Florida sophomore in the meet’s last individual event, the 200 IM, 1:57.88-2:00.64.
The day closed with Georgia, the defending NCAA Champions, winning the 400 free relay in 3:22.17 to Florida’s 3:25.13. Georgia’s best split was actually a 50.23 lead-off from Smoliga (her freestyle has looked really good this season), and all three swimmers were under 51 seconds. Only one Gator cleared that mark: Ashlee Linn on their third leg.
Florida’s next meet will be a home dual with Alabama on Thursday. Georgia will have a bigger break, before they host in-state foes Emory on November 15th. The Emory women are the defending NCAA Division II Champions.