Lithuanian National Team member Tomas Navikonis has told SwimSwam that he will no longer be attending the University of Florida in the fall after committing to the program in June.
In an email, the 19 year-old Navikonis explained that he is no longer going to Florida, but is still looking to compete in the NCAA and attend college in the United States.
As a 2021 European Junior Swimming Championships finalist, Navikonis would be a strong addition for most NCAA programs. In the 100 meter freestyle, he finished 8th overall with a time of 50.27 (LCM). He also competed in the 50 free (36th), the 200 free (26th), and as member of Lithuania’s 400 medley (13th) and 400 free (8th) relays at that competition. He also recently competed at the 2022 World Championships, placing 49th in the 50 freestyle with a 22.92.
BEST TIMES SCM (CONVERTED TO SCY):
- 50 free- 22.21 (20.00)
- 100 free- 48.52 (43.71)
- 200 free- 1:46.72 (1:36.14)
- 100 back- 56.18 (50.61)
- 200 back-2:04.65 (1:52.29)
With the loss of Navikonis, Florida is still set to bring in 16 athletes from the high school class of 2022 this fall, including 2 top-20 recruits from the girl’s class and 1 top-20 recruit from the boy’s class, according to SwimSwam’s rankings of the high school class of 2022. However, the team will still have some major holes to fill, especially on the men’s side, with Bobby Finke and Kieran Smith both opting not to use their 5th years.
Both Smith and Finke have been staples for the Florida men over the past several seasons, and few were expecting to see both of them move on from the NCAA this season.With the loss, the Florida men will have a hard time repeating their 3rd place finish from the 2022 NCAA Championships, considering that the team will lose almost 90 out of their 374 points from the losses of Smith and Finke alone.
At the 2022 NCAA Championships, Smith made A-final appearances in the 200 freestyle (5th), 500 freestyle (4th), and 200 backstroke (4th), scoring 44 individual points for the Gators, the 9th most at the entire meet. He still holds the American record in the 500 freestyle with his 4:06.32 from the 2021 SEC Championships and also holds SEC records in the 200 freestyle and 800 freestyle relay. Finke also holds an American Record in the 1650 freestyle with his 14:12.08 from the 2020 SEC Championships. Even finishing almost 10 seconds slower than his record at the 2022 NCAA Championships, Finke still won gold in the event by 9 seconds, a huge margin of victory. Individually, Finke contributed 42 points for the Gator men at NCAAs, also making finals in the 500 freestyle (9th) and 400 IM (4th).
In addition to the loss of Finke and Smith, Florida also graduated 9 other seniors, with only Dillon Hillis confirmed to be returning for the 2022-2023 school year as a 5th-year. Hills contributed 16 individual points at NCAAs for the team last season and looks to improve upon that this season.
Though the Gators may have a hard time replicating their placement from last season, the team still has a strong roster that could easily carry them to a top 10 NCAA finish. After a successful summer that saw him earn a gold medal at the 2022 World Championships, rising senior Trey Freeman will be looking for the same success in the short course pool. Freeman scored 14 points for the Gators last season at NCAAs, with his highest finish coming in the 200 freestyle (11th). However, his long course performances indicate that he’s on track for some big performances this season, considering he dropped in his best events, the 200 and 400 freestyle, at the US International Team Trials.
Another name to watch for will be Alfonso Mestre, who finished 7th in the 500 freestyle last season and contributed 19 points for the Gators. Mestre isn’t as strong in his other events, only placing 33rd in the 200 freestyle and 10th in the 1650 freestyle at NCAAs, but he could be a viable replacement for either Finke or Smith considering their events overlap.
Though Anthony Nesty’s incoming recruiting class on the men’s side is mostly sprint-based, the team is bringing in Gio Linscheer, who is a formattable distance recruit who’s seen large drops over the past year. An honorable mention in SwimSwam’s Rankings of the Boy’s class of 2022, Linscheer brings in personal bests of 1:38.50 in the 200 freestyle, 4:22.50 in the 500 freestyle, 14:51.96 in the 1650 freestyle, and 3:48.08 in the 400 IM, making him a strong candidate for Nesty to develop in the distance events.