The Florida Gators began their 2014-2015 season, their first in nearly half-a-decade without Olympic medalist and NCAA champion Elizabeth Beisel, by welcoming in SEC rivals Arkansas for a season-opening dual meet in Gainesville.
This is the first time in a while that the Florida women have begun their season with an in-conference dual meet, as the swimming schedule this year mirrors what the conference does with football season, starting some teams on in-conference meets.
The change in schedule didn’t affect Gregg Troy’s troops, as they were able to win 189.5-110.5. The specific nature of this meet, beginning with a conference rivalry, created some interesting races and results on both sides.
Junior Sinead Russell seems to be past some of the injury issues she had going into last year and started her season off very well with a win in the women’s 100 back in 54.64. That clears Rachel Bootsma’s 54.67 as the fastest time in the country so far, though it’s still very early in the season.
The runner-up in that race was her teammate Georgia Hohmann with a 56.04. The order was reversed in the 200, which Hohmann won in 2:00.15 to Russells’ 2:01.89. Hohmann took that race with gusto, splitting a 57.8 on the front-half. That’s as compared to Russell, who was out in 59.5 and swam more of a back-half race.
Russell also led off Florida’s 200 medley relay, splitting 25.50, as the Gators roared to a 1:40.22 ahead of Arkansas’ runner-up 1:46.13.
In the breaststroke races, both teams had very positive results. The races were swept by Arkansas’ All-American senior Nikki Daniels, who swam 1:01.63 and 2:16.25, respectively. As compared to the 1:04.9/2:20.8 that she started last season with. She missed scoring at NCAA’s last season, largely because of the depth, but early on she’s on track to be back in the A-Final.
Placing 2nd in both of those races was Florida junior Lindsey McKnight. Last season, Florida was heavily reliant on the now-graduated Hilda Luthersdottir, This year, they have to fill that gap, and McKnight stepped up in the first meet. She swam a 1:02.15 for 2nd in the 100 breast, and was 2nd in the 200 breast in 2:17.56. McKnight has great versatility, and this year she’s being shifted from a freestyler/IM’er to fill the breaststroke role. She is one of the keys to Florida’s season this year.
Anna Mayfield went two-for-two in individual events for Florida. That included the 200 free in 1:48.93 and the 500 free in 4:49.42.
The 6’2″ Mayfield is having a great start to her junior season and is really blooming in the shorter freestyles. In addition to her individual swims, she split a 50.48 on the Razorbacks’ 400 free relay, though it was in a losing effort by a margin of 3:25.33-3:24.14.
Similarly, Florida’s Ashlee Linn showed a shift to the 100/200 freestyle, as compared to the backstroke events that she specialized in last season. Specifically, Linn swam only freestyle races at this meet, and with relatively limited depth there this season, she’ll have to continue to swim well for Florida.
In the 100 free, Linn was 2nd in 50.62 placing behind only her teammate and first team All-American Natalie Hinds (49.08). Hinds was a 22.49 to also win the 50 free. Hinds swam three individual events and only one relay, which included a 54.75 to win the 100 fly. Arkansas freshmen Taylor Weiss (56.59) and Olivia Weekley (57.17) started off their college careers solidly by taking 2nd and 3rd in that 100 fly.
With no Hinds on the 400 free relay, it was left to Linn to anchor that relay. She hit the water with a third-of-a-second deficit, but roared home to give them the victory.
Arkansas’ next meet won’t be for three weeks, where they’ll welcome in Texas A&M on October 18th. Florida will host the All-Florida Invitational next weekend.