Caeleb Dressel‘s 19.6 in the 50 free helped power the Florida men to a 16-point win over SEC rivals Auburn, while the Florida women needed three Jess Thielmann wins to top Auburn by 4.
The meet, taking place in Auburn, Alabama, was senior day for the Tiger seniors.
Some very fast swimming turned the SEC rivalry red-hot on the men’s side, as both team’s studs appear to be gearing up for the conference championships in just under a month.
Caeleb Dressel probably had the flashiest swim of the day, getting well under 20 seconds to win the 50 free. The freshman was 19.61 – his second-best time of the year, and better than he was leading off the team’s 200 free relay at the Gators mid-season rest meet. Dressel was also 43.88 to win the 100 free, which is once again his best swim outside of the Georgia Invite.
That’s a good sign for Dressel, who as a high school senior put up a time that would have won men’s NCAAs in the 50 free, but faced questions from fans about how he’d respond to Florida’s high-yardage program.
The star for Auburn was Joe Patching, who’s been rising to the occasion all year. Patching went a blazing 1:43.77 to win the 200 back, which won by nearly three seconds. Patching was also 47.89 for a touchout win in the 100 back.
Things were exciting from the get-go, with Auburn touching out Florida for the 200 medley relay win to open the meet. Patching staked his team to a lead, and Michael Duderstadt was outstanding on breaststroke, splitting 24.32 to add to the lead. At the end, Kyle Darmody held off a charging Dressel to pick up the win for Auburn in 1:27.64 to Florida’s 1:27.85.
Darmody was the team’s explosive star of last year’s post-season, but hasn’t really sizzled yet this year. But he was 19.5 on that split, a sign that perhaps he’s ready for another lights-out postseason run. Dressel was 19.3 for Florida.
Florida fired right back, though, getting a 1000 free win from Arthur Frayler. The junior was 9:01.67, a season-best and what would have been the 3rd-best time in the nation prior to this weekend, though results from this weekend will likely drop him back a spot or two.
Auburn had a couple more breakout swims, including Duderstadt’s 100 breast, which was a quick 53.64 to touch out Florida’s Eduardo Solaeche. Also swimming well for Auburn was Australian freshman Hugo Morris, who made his Tiger debut by nearly winning the 200 free. Morris was 1:36.96, though the event went to Florida’s star Pawel Werner in 1:36.25.
The women’s side was a crazy, back-and-forth showdown. Auburn went up early by 1-2ing the 200 medley relay. That was a huge, 13-point swing to open the meet, keyed by Auburn’s tough butterfly legs: Megan Fonteno was 24.07 on the A and Maddie Martin 24.15 on the B. Florida’s butterflyer was German freshman Theresa Michalak, who could only muster a 24.91.
But Florida’s Jess Thielmann singlehandedly put her Gators back in the lead by sweeping the next two events back to back. Thielmann has pulled off the 1000 free/200 free double before, but never in a bigger situation than this. The junior went 9:43.17 to win the 1000 free by a longshot, though she never really backed off her splits considerably to rest for her next swim.
Thielmann had the men’s 1000 to rest before jumping on the blocks for the 200 free, which she won in 1:48.79. Both races were Florida 1-2s.
Thielmann would come back to win the 500 free in 4:47.24, providing Florida with 27 individual points in a meet that came down to just 4.
The sprints set up a great showdown between Auburn’s Allyx Purcell and Florida’s Natalie Hinds. Purcell rode the home crowd to victory in the 50 (22.54 to 22.66), but Hinds struck back in the 100, winning 48.84 to 49.06.
Auburn’s butterflyers followed up their crushing medley relay performances by 1-2-3ing the 100 fly. That was a gigantic point swing, led by Maddie Martin’s 54.18. Fonteno was second in 54.28.
Auburn also won the 200 fly, and that race went to senior Sarah Peterson on the night celebrating her class. Peterson was a 1:58.70 to lead a 1-2 for Auburn.
But Florida was unbeatable through the backstrokes, with Ashlee Linn (54.02 in the 100 and 1:55.78 in the 200) winning both events.
With Florida leading by just 6 and two events remaining, freshman Theresa Michalak came up with probably the biggest swim of her short college career thus far. The German national, who just became eligible this semester, went 1:59.88 to beat Peterson for the 200 IM title and put Florida into great position.
All the Gators had to do was take 2nd in the final relay to force a tie, but Florida managed to better even that, touching out Auburn for the event win and the meet. Hinds was a blitzing 47.64 on the second leg for Florida, and the Gators went 3:18.43 to Auburn’s 3:18.64. The Tigers were closing in late, but freshman Valerie Hull‘s 49.36 wasn’t quite enough to overcome Florida to force a tie.