Florida high school swimming falls into a small group of the most elite states for high school swimming in the country. Given that fact, it’s been a wonder to me why, for at least better part of the past decade, the state of Florida has only been able to muster a single men’s and women’s team in the top 15 at NCAA’s every year.
Parity may be on its way to the Sunshine State, as the Florida State Seminoles handed the Florida Gators their first double loss in over 4 years. The last time Florida’s men’s and women’s teams lost the same dual meet was November 21, 2006 against none other than Florida State. Not only did FSU win the meet, but they won it in dominating fashion by final scores of 187-113 on the women’s side and 184-116 on the men’s side. The #20 Seminoles are on a serious role, having won the Georgia Tech Invite over the weekend, where the #4 Gators were also in attendance.
The meet was quite a scene, with the Seminoles riding high and swimming at home, under the lights of their outdoor Morcom Aquatics Center. The crowd was huge and electric by college swimming standards, and in post-meet interviews, the Florida State coaching staff repeatedly credited the environment with the level of swims that their team put up.
The #20 Seminole men won both relays, including a 1:28.98 that stands as the sixth best time in the nation so far. They broke the race open early thanks to great splits of 23.43 on the backstroke from Brad Morrison and a 24.51 on the breaststroke leg from Rob Holderness.
Individually, Holderness swam a 53.99 100 breaststroke to add a top 3 ranking there to the best 200 breaststroke time in the nation, which he set last weekend at the Georgia Tech Invite.
The Seminoles also have an impressive group of sprinters and got wins in both the 50 freestyle from Mark Weber (20.14) and 100 freestyle from Robby Hayes (43.92). Though the Seminoles were able to break 3 minutes in the 400 free relay, they could’ve taken a run at the top time in the nation, except that Hayes inexplicably split a 46.39 on the anchor leg.
For the Gator Men, defending NCAA Swimmer of the Year Conor Dwyer continued blazing his hot streak by putting up season best times to win both the 200 and 500 freestyles. His 200 time, 1:34.7, is the fastest in the country this season. Brett Fraser also pulled off a double win for the Gators in the 200 backstroke (1:45.82) and 100 fly (48.74). The third part of Florida’s “Big Three,” Sebastian Rousseau, did the rest of the Gator winning on the day by taking the 200 IM and 200 fly, both in season best times.
Aside from those three swimmers, Florida State won the other 10 (out of 16) events.
On the women’s side, the unranked Florida State women beat the #4 Florida women, though the latter were without their two best swimmers: Teresa Crippen and Elizabeth Beisel. It’s not clear why the two missed the meet, but after swimming so many events at the GaTech Invite that ended on Sunday, it was likely that they stayed home in Gainesville to focus on training in preparation for the upcoming Short Course Nationals, or were still traveling home from Monday’s Golden Goggles Awards.
Like their male teammates, the Seminole women won both relays, and also like their counterparts, they led each relay wire-to-wire.
The leader for Florida State was freshman Tiffany Oliver, who won the 100 free in a school record time of 49.27. The old record of 49.32 was set by Carrie Ellis in 2005. It’s always exciting to see freshman break school records and watch a single swimmer of that caliber start a huge snowball effect for a previously mediocre program.
Oliver is also the key to the Florida State 400 free relay, which touched in 3:20.21. This was about half of a second off of their best time of the season, which is fifth best in the country, but was a great show of consistency that bodes well for the Seminoles come March.
Florida’s Shara Stafford was the lone triple-winner in the meet. She won the 100 fly (53.51), 200 IM (1:59.31) and 100 back (53.58). The mark in the 100 back is the fastest in the SEC this season.
Also for Florida, Sarah Bateman moved to a perfect 6-0 in the 50 freestyle by winning in 22.49. While she has continued to be consistently good in her specialty, she’s really starting to show glimmers and great improvement in the 100 breaststroke. This is a spot that is a major weak point for the Gator relays, and her 1:03.18 is a career best by seven tenths. If she continues to improve there, she could greatly improve Florida’s chances at repeating as NCAA Champions.
Despite the loss, Florida fans shouldn’t be too alarmed. As was mentioned, the women were missing a good portion of their lineup, and Florida historically is much more impressive in the spring than the fall. Remember that last year, the Florida women lost duals to both Georgia and Stanford before continuing on to beat both teams at NCAA’s.
Florida’s next meets will be the first weekend in December, where they will send one group to USA Swimming Short Course Nationals and another to Princeton for a dual meet. Florida State is done swimming until the new year.