Disclaimer: HardCore Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week. HardCore Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many hard-core swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks some as others grabbed the headlines.
The Florida Gators made a schedule change this season, opening with an SEC dual meet against Arkansas rather than the traditional “Pinch a Penny All-Florida Invitational,” which will happen this weekend instead.
That wasn’t the only change for the Gators. That dual with the Razorbacks showed that junior Natalie Hinds is starting this season like a whole new swimmer.
Hinds was impressive in her season debut individually, going 22.49 and 49.08 to win the 50 and 100 freestyles. But her most HardCore swim came right out of the gate, anchoring the 200 medley relay in what appears to be the nation’s first 21-second freestyle split of the season.
Hinds entered the water with a large lead, and she used that clean water to roll to a huge 21.65 split to cap off the first swimming win of the season for Florida. That split in September is faster than all but 5 of the anchor legs at last year’s NCAA championships, with one of those faster legs being Hinds’ own 21.29 split.
It’s always dangerous to predict the future – you never know what a season will bring, or how broken down an athlete is at any given moment during the regular season. But Hinds’ 21.65 split certainly begs some speculation about what she could go tapered and shaved this season.
Besting her 21.29 from the medley relay last season is certainly a strong possibility. It’s also worth noting that Hinds split 21.07 on the 200 free relay for Florida, the fastest split at the entire NCAA Championships. And that was with a very safe .30 relay exchange – could we possibly see a 20-point split this season out of the Gator?
Regardless of what she eventually could do, one thing that can’t be disputed is that Hinds is far ahead of where she was at this time last year.
At that All-Florida Invite, held roughly the same weekend one year earlier, Hinds’ best relay split was just 22.59, and her best open 50 time not even under 23 seconds. A quick comparison of her times from the Arkansas dual and the All-Florida Invite a year ago:
Season-opening meet performances – Natalie Hinds
|50 free (relay split)||22.59r||21.65r|
That level of improvement is an exciting prospect for Florida, which is looking for a new star to lean on following the graduation of Olympian Elizabeth Beisel. If Hinds can continue to blow away her 2013 season by these margins as the year goes on, they may have just found their candidate.
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