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UF Men’s Swimming & Diving: Smith Sets New American, NCAA 500 Free Record on Day Two of 2020 SEC Championships

Kieran Smith now holds the American and NCAA record for the fastest 500 free time in history.
Photo by Courtney Culbreath

Courtesy of UF Athletic Association

Smith topped the previous American record by almost a full second, while being nearly two full seconds faster than the previous NCAA record.

Kieran Smith set a new American and NCAA 500 free record to lead the No. 11 Gators during the second finals session at the 2020 Southeastern Championships at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center in Auburn, Ala.

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Smith’s record-breaking time of 4:06.32 helped Florida, who will head into day three in second-place, win its 23rd 500 free SEC Title. The mark will stand as a new American, NCAA, U.S. Open, SEC, Florida and personal-record time for the event.

The Ridgefield, Conn. native’s mark beat Zane Grothe’s previous American record of 4:07.25 set on Nov. 30, 2017 by almost a full second. Additionally, he beat the previous top NCAA mark of 4:08.19 (Townley Haas, March 28th, 2019) by nearly two seconds and the previous SEC record by more than four seconds.

Heading into today, Smith’s best time was 4:18.13, which he shattered on Wednesday morning with a swim of 4:14.55.

On the first day of the SEC championships, Smith also set a new SEC and Florida record with a 1:30.11 200 free lead-off split for the SEC-winning 800 free relay team.

Teammates Robert Finke and Khader Baqlah also qualified for the A-final of the event, with Finke making a stop at the podium with a third-place and A-cut finish of 4:10.86.

Baqlah would go on to finish in fifth place with an effort of 4:15.86.

Florida notched its third medal of the night with a second-place finish in the 200 free relay. Eric Friese, Kieran Smith, Will Davis, and Isaac Davis produced the fifth-fastest swim in school history, as the group combined for a swim of 1:16.33.

Grant Sanders led the way in the 200 IM A-final, finishing in fifth with a swim of 1:44.91. In the morning prelims, he would set a new personal-best. Dillon Hillis joined him, finishing in eighth with a time of 1:46.51.

Will Davis tied his personal-best individual 50 free swim with a 19.28. The mark was the fifth-fastest time overall and won him the B-final.

Friese and Isaac Davis joined him in the B-final. Friese produced an overall placing of 13th with his swim of 19.67, while Isaac Davis finished in 16th with a time of 19.82.

The last two Gators in the finals on Wednesday night were Brennan Gravley and Matt Anderson.

After setting a new personal-best mark in the morning, Gravley would follow that up by shaving another half second off his time for a sixth-place 500 free C-final finish.

Anderson, who cut down 8.21 seconds off his personal-best in the morning as well, finished in eighth with a time of 4:24.17.

Quotables

Head coach Anthony Nesty:

On how the team performed after one day under their belt…
“It was a good start last night, good start this morning. When you come to a meet like this, it’s a prelims meet. You have to do well in the prelims, get your spots for the nights, and be better at night. Really proud of our guys. Our goal was to come here and battle and do our best. Last night was fantastic and today–morning and night–was great.”

On Kieran Smith’s record-breaking swim…
“He’s a good athlete. Good kid. I’m a believer that good things happen to good people, and what a fantastic swim. Great crowd here, and to do it in front of them is special.”

On his mindset heading into day three tomorrow…
“Again, we just have to get the job done in the morning because it’s a morning meet. Every morning, every swim counts. We have two more relays to go.”

Sophomore Kieran Smith:

On how they performed tonight…
“We started off the night pretty good with our second-place 4-by-50, that got me fired up. We had some good swims in the 50 final, and I was just planning on executing the whole race, and I feel like I did a pretty good job of doing so.”

On his record-breaking performance…
“It’s special. Going into to the meet, we knew we could be around 4:08’s maybe, but 4:06 was incredible swim. Lights out. It just felt really, really good throughout the whole time.”

On where the team is at heading into day three…
“We’re in a good spot. I think we’re sitting second behind (Texas) A&M so we just got to keep pushing these preliminaries, getting to the highest finals we can and then just rip it at night.

Standings
1. Texas A&M- 438
2. Florida- 395
3. Alabama- 361
4. Kentucky- 321
5. Georgia- 310
6. Tennessee- 328.5
7. Auburn- 301
8. Missouri- 212
8. Arkansas- 200
9. South Carolina- 168
10. LSU- 160
11.Vanderbilt- 90

What’s Next

Competition on Thursday will start at 10:30 a.m. ET with the 400 IM, followed by the 100 fly, 200 free.

Finals for each respective event will begin again at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Friday and Saturday will mark the final two days of competition, with the SEC Champion being crowned on Saturday night.