UF Women’s Swimming & Diving: No. 7 Gators Claim Second-Place Nod at 2020 SEC Championships

Emma Whitner notched her first SEC medal with a personal-best platform performance on Saturday evening.
Photo by Courtney Culbreath

Courtesy of UF Athletic Association

Florida falls short by just 28.5 to earn second-place conference finishes in back-to-back years.

The No. 7 University of Florida women’s swimming and diving team earned a second-place finish after falling short by just 28.5 points at the 2020 Southeastern Conference Championships at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center.

UF fought until the end, outscoring future-champion Tennessee by 68 points on Saturday night to tally a meet total of 1,079.50

Ultimately, the team would post a runner-up bid behind the Lady Vols, who compiled 1,108 points over the competition.

The Gators finished in second place for consecutive years after a runner-up bid last season, which marked the first time UF has posted back-to-back top-two conference finishes since 2011 and 2012.

In total, Gator swimmers and divers reeled in seven medals (six individual and one relay) throughout their five days in Auburn.

Emma Whitner and Leah Braswell claimed medals in the last finals session to lead Florida.

Emma Whitner was one of two platform finalists for the Florida in Saturday evening’s session. She would earn the first conference podium stop of her career with a second-place effort of 285.45, besting her previous best, set in the prelims (250.60).

Braswell got the evening started in the 1,650 free with a bronze medal. She would produce a time of 15:54.54 to earn her first medal of the competition. Last year at SEC’s, she would set the fifth-fastest swim in school history in the event en route to an event title.

For the third time this week, Sherridon Dressel produced a lifetime best in an event final. On Saturday night, she finished fourth with a personal-best time of 1:50.93, moving her up to the fourth-fastest time in school history.

The time stands as 1.60 seconds faster than her previous best, set in the morning prelims.

Heading into today, her previous best was set at last year SEC’s in Athens, Ga.

To end the meet, the 400 free relay of Bella Garofalo, Dressel, Gabby Hillis, and Talia Bates would produce the third-fastest time in school history, touching in 3:12.79. The time was just .50 seconds from earning a stop to the podium and earned the group an A-cut.

Dressel would lead the way with a split of 47.70.

Gators Splashes

  *   The 1,650 free was a Gator-heavy event, as six additional Gators would score points alongside Braswell.
     *   Joining Braswell with a top-10 finish were Taylor Ault and Tylor Mathieu. Ault would finish in seventh with a swim of 16:08.10, while Mathieu produced a personal-best of 16:19.30, 7.64 seconds faster than her previous-best.
     *   Florida’s next two finishers also clocked personal bests, as Georgia Darwent (16:22.17) dropped 16 seconds to finish in 12th and Savanna Faulconer finished in 16:24.67 (15th).
     *   Finishing back-to-back after Faulconer were Kathleen Golding and Nikki Miller to help Florida claim 15th, 16th and 17th-place. The last Florida finisher was Allie Piccirillo, who finished in 21st with a time of 16:34.11.
  *   After qualifying for the 200 breast A-final with the fifth-fastest prelim swim, Vanessa Pearl would go on to finish in eighth place with an effort of 2:09.92.
  *   Elizabeth Perez would head into the platform final with Whitner as the top seed, hitting a new lifetime best in the prelims. In the finals, Perez would finish fourth with an overall five-dive tally.
  *   Gabby Hillis would improve upon a new previous-best swim in the 100 free prelims to win the B-final with an effort of 48.21. Garofalo would join her and finish in third with a swim of 48.67.
  *   Another personal best went down in the final sessions, as Rosie Zavaros finished the 200 back B-final in 1:55.21, good for 14th-place overall.
  *   The lone Gator in the 100 free C-final was Talia Bates, who claimed a fourth-place (20th-overall) finish with a new personal best of 49.09. The effort is .15 seconds faster than her previous top time set at the Georgia Tech Invite.
  *   Georgia Darwent qualified for the 200 Back C-final with a swim of 1.56.67 to earn a fifth-place heat finish (21st-overall).


Head coach Jeff Poppell:

“I’m super proud of our women and the way they battled all week long to come up just 28 points shy of winning. It was truly a team effort, with all 22 of our athletes contributing throughout the week. No one really gave us a chance heading into the meet, but our team believed we could win. We just ran out of gas a little this evening. I’d like to thank coaches Whitney Hite and Bryan Gillooly and all of our support staff for their efforts this week. They did a phenomenal job. I feel truly blessed to work with such great individuals. Now we turn our focus to the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga. in just under four weeks.“

“I’d also like to congratulate Coach Nesty and the UF men’s team on their eighth-consecutive SEC title. They had a great meet this week!”

Gator Medals

Day One- Bronze, 200 Medley Relay (Dressel, Ball, Garofalo, Pearl- third-fastest in school history)

Day Three- Silver, 400 IM- Vanessa Pearl, Silver- 3-Meter- Elizabeth Perez, Bronze- Sherridon Dressel (100 fly),

Day Four- Silver, 100 Back-Sherridon Dressel (personal-best swim, remains second-fastest in school history)

Day Five- Silver, Platform- Emma Whiter, Bronze- 1,650 Free- Leah Braswell


1. Tennessee- 1,108
2. Florida- 1,079.50
3. Kentucky- 987.50
4. Georgia- 986
5. Auburn- 866
6. Texas A&M-851
7. Alabama- 748
8. Missouri- 500
9. South Carolina- 427
10. Arkansas- 422
11. LSU- 417
12. Vanderbilt- 150

What’s Next
Florida will head back to Gainesville to prepare for the NCAA Diving Zones on March 9-11 and the NCAA Championships on March 18-21 in Athens, Ga.