While a 6th place finish at the 2023 Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships was likely not the Florida Gators’ team goal heading to Minneapolis, there were some amazing peaks, including a trio of NCAA Relay Records in the 200 and 400 free relays.
The 200 free relay, in particular, broke a historic record. The Gators’ 1:13.35 broke the 2009 Auburn Record of 1:14.08, which was the last remaining NCAA Record from the 2008-2009 supersuit era.
They closed the meet in a wild final race, edging Cal by .01 seconds and breaking the 400 free relay record. Florida swam 2:44.07, with both them and Cal under NC State’s 2018 record of 2:44.31.
In between those record-setting free relay swims, they also broke the 400 medley relay record, swimming 2:58.32. That cleared the 2017 records set by Texas in 2:59.22 by almost a second.
Here’s what’s wild: between those three relays, which aggregate to 12 swims, the Gators will only lose 1 or 2 legs, combined.
The one leg that is for sure leaving is breaststroker Dillon Hillis, a 5th year who split 50.23 on the breaststroke leg of the 400 medley relay.
Not only are the other 11 legs not 5th years, 10 of them are not even seniors, which eliminates a lot of the “will they/won’t they” return for next season. The lone senior is Eric Friese, who had the slowest split among Florida’s four legs on the 200 free relay.
200 Free Relay:
- Josh Liendo – freshman (18.22)
- Adam Chaney – junior (18.37)
- Eric Friese – senior (18.64)
- Macguire McDuff – sophomore (18.12)
400 Medley Relay:
- Adam Chaney – junior (44.28)
- Dillon Hillis – 5th year (50.23)
- Josh Liendo – freshman (42.91)
- Macguire McDuff – sophomore (40.90)
400 Free Relay:
- Josh Liendo – freshman (40.66)
- Adam Chaney – junior (41.10)
- Julian Smith – sophomore (41.26)
- Macguire McDuff – sophomore (41.05)
In spite of that 6th-place result this year, Florida looks built to clear that gap that they’ve been knocking up against for years with so much talent returning and an incredibly-deep recruiting class coming in. That includes:
- Sean Sullivan, the Indiana High School State Champion in the 100 free (20.17/44.09 freestyler)
- Scotty Buff, the Ohio High School DI State Champion in the 100 fly and National high School Record breaker (44.97)
- Jonny Marshall, the Ohio High School DI State Champion in the 100 back (beating Buff) in 46.31
- Caleb Maldari, the North Carolina LSC Champion in the 200 fly and 200 free (1:47.30 in the 200 fly, 1:36.55 in the 200 free)
- Josh Parent, the Junior Pan Pacs silver medalist in the 1500 free (14:56.60 miler)
- Amadeusz Knop, the Florida 4A State Champion in the 200 IM and 100 back (a 3:51.64 IMer/15:09.46 miler)
- Bobby Dinunzio, the Virginia High School 6A State Champion in the 500 free (4:24.56 freestyler)
The one thing missing from that list is a breaststroker to replace Hillis, but that might not be as dire as it seems. The Gators’ fastest breaststroker on a flat-start last season, Aleksas Savickas, was just a freshman this season. He flat-started 50.73 to Hillis’ 50.80, though Hillis was the clear choice for that relay spot based on their performances at NCAAs.
The point is: the Gators enter next year as an overwhelming favorite in all three relays. All three relay records are square in the crosshairs as well. And with the talent coming in, Florida might sit in that favored position for years to come in all three relays (and the 200 medley and 800 free relays, which they didn’t win last season).
This feels like a team approaching a ‘year of destiny,’ where they have a big number of returning swimmers and a big group of top-20 freshmen coming together at the same time. If the stars align, and it all comes together, 2024 or 2025 could be a golden opportunity for the Gators.