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UF Men’s Swimming & Diving: Gators Suffer Loss in Season Opener Against Bulldogs

Dillon Hillis won the 100 breast in the season opener on Friday afternoon versus Georgia. Hillis currently owns the second-fastest time in program history in the event.
Photo By: Tony Walsh

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

No. 3 Florida fell short by a final score of 164.5-134.5 in their season opener at No. 8 Georgia

The University of Florida men’s swimming and diving team opened up the new season, suffering a 164.5-134.5 loss on the road against Georgia at Gabrielsen Natatorium on Friday afternoon after a 252-day break from team competition.

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Florida picked up a total of five individual victories in the season opener, as well as squeezing out the top time in the final relay of the meet. Robert Finke, Trey Freeman, and Kieran Smith all posted the nation’s fastest time in their event wins.

Robert Finke posted a trio of top-three finishes in the first action of his junior season, highlighted by a victory in the 400 IM. Finke, the 2019 SEC Champion in the event, finished first by 0.50 seconds, securing an effort of 3:50.33. The Clearwater, Fla. native also posted third-place finishes with a new personal-best in the 200 back (1:45.34) and an effort of 8:57.43 in the 1,000 free to open up the meet.

After missing the majority of last season to injury, Freeman touched first in the 200 free with a B-cut effort of 1:36.10. He would later go on to notch another B-cut with a second-place finish in the 500 free (4:19.46).

The reigning 2020 SEC Male Swimmer of the Year Kieran Smith started off his junior campaign with a B-cut winning effort in the 100 free, finishing first by a full second to his closest competitor with a swim of 43.35. Additionally, Smith hit a new personal-best time with a third-place nod in the 200 fly (1:44.74).

Dillon Hillis also secured a victory in the 100 breast. Hillis, who currently owns the second-fast time in school history in the event, finished first with the top time of 54.73. In the 200 breast, Hillis would notch a second-place finish (2:00.59).

In his Florida debut, Leonardo Garcia showed up on both the 1- and 3-meter springboard. Garcia posted his first victory as a Gator with his top 3-meter tally of 399.83. He also finished in second on the 1-meter with a 6-dive tally of 321.60.

Gator Splashes

  *   To begin his senior season, Clark Beach registered a pair of runner-up bids to lead Florida in the backstroke. First, Beach finished with the second-fastest time in the 100 back, touching in 48.50. In the 200 back, the four-time All-American tallied an effort of 1:45.11.
  *   Alfonso Mestre also met the B standard for the season in the 500 free. Mestre touched in third place behind Freeman with his swim of 4:21.67. He also competed in the 200 free with Freeman, finishing in fourth-place.
  *   In his first collegiate competition, Mateusz Dubas posted a third-place effort behind Hillis in the 200 breast. Dubas finished the event with an effort of 2:02.96. In the 100 breast, he finished fourth.
  *   Eric Friese led a trio of Gators with a top-five finish in the 50 free with his runner-up bid of 20.08, with Adam Chaney following him in third with a time of 20.15. Isaac Davis’ swim of 20.53 tied for the fourth-fastest time in the event. Friese would add a third-place nod in the 100 fly (47.56), while Chaney added a fourth-place finish in the 100 free with an effort of 45.05.
  *   As the only returner competing for Florida’s diving group today, Nick Lydon posted a third-place finish on each springboard, hitting a mark of 301.13 on the 3-meter and 293.55 on the 1-meter.

Relay Magic

The Gators ended the meet in a come-from-behind win in the 400 free relay. The team consisting of Freeman, Chaney, Friese, and Smith outlasted Georgia’s top relay with a combined swim of 2:55.66. Smith anchored the relay and was able to come from behind on the last leg to seal the win. The time is currently the fastest in the nation.

In the opening event of the meet, Florida’s winning relay was DQ’d due to an early start. The relay of Clark Beach, Dubas, Isaac Davis, and Will Davis went on to post a third-place finish in the event.

Series History

Today’s loss snaps a three-meet win streak that has been active since the 2016-17 season. The Gators now hold a 60-19-3 all-time mark versus the Bulldogs and a 5-4-1 tally over the previous 10 meets.

This year’s opener marked the 16th time these two programs have faced off in Florida’s first meet of the season. Florida suffered its first loss against the Bulldogs in an opener since 1952, holding a 14-2 record in such meets.  Prior to this season, the last time the Gators and Bulldogs met to open up UF’s season was during the 1993-94 season.

Quotables

Head coach Anthony Nesty- “I am pleased with our efforts today against Georgia. The men have been working incredibly hard each day, and we will continue to pursue our training goals after leaving Athens. We obviously have areas we need to improve in, however, the men performed well at this time in the season, and their continued commitment to the program is quite evident. This unprecedented time has certainly been a life lesson in ‘resilience,’ and our men have embraced that challenge. For this alone, I am extremely proud of them. To have the opportunity to compete within the conference and travel is a tremendous tribute to our Administration, Sports Health, and Support Staff. We are all a team, and each part of the whole is valued and appreciated. It truly is a collective effort by all. Despite the many challenges before us all, we will continue to press forward, committed to our team goals. Our work is not done. We have quite a way to go down this path. Go Gators!”

Head diving coach Bryan Gillooly- “It was a solid start for the men’s divers. Getting a competition under our belts will be really helpful moving forward. Leo was just a couple points off his personal best and considering he was without a pool for about seven months, that’s really impressive. We are looking forward to going up against Miami next week.”

Looking Ahead

Florida will now turn its focus to the 2020 Toyota US Open on Nov. 12-14 in Sarasota. Due to COVID, USA Swimming has scattered the event across nine regional sites. Rather than the approximate 800 swimmers in one location, each site will host around 200 athletes.

Just a few days later, UF will compete in the Auburn Fall Invite on Nov. 18-20. 2020 competition will wrap-up with the Miami Diving Invitational on Dec. 2-4 in Coral Gables.