- Written by Sharon Robb
Florida and Florida State will be well-represented at the NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships that begin on Thursday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
The No. 5-ranked University of Florida Gators qualified fourteen athletes for the three-day meet.
"The men's meet on paper looks to be one of the fastest meets ever," Florida head coach Gregg Troy said. "It's going to be highly competitive."
The Gators, fifth last year, have finished in the top five four of the last five years and top 10 for 11 consecutive years.
Senior Conor Dwyer is among favorites to challenge for an NCAA title. He is the reigning 200- and 500-yard freestyle national champion and seven-time All-American. He is also the defending NCAA and SEC Male Swimmer of the Year and U.S. national team member.
Dwyer will be joined by 13 of his teammates including freshman Marcin Cieslak of Poland, Marco Loughran of Great Britain, Brett Fraser of the Cayman Islands, Balazs Gercsak of Hungary and South African Sebastien Rousseau.
Coming into the NCAA meet, the Gators have the fastest times in six different events and are in the Top 10 in ten others. Loughran has the fastest time in the NCAA in the 200-yard backstroke and second fastest in the 100-yard backstroke.
Cieslak, recently named SEC Male Freshman of the Year, has top 10 times in five events.
Florida State is sending a small contingent of three swimmers and divers. Seniors Rob Holderness and divers Landon Marzullo and Mike Neubacher will compete for top eight finishes and All-American honors.
"Our team is not as big as it's been in the past, but what we come with has a chance to perform extremely well," FSU head coach Neil Harper said. "They survived the difficulties of getting here and they have a very good chance at performing well and their goals are very high."
Holderness is the first FSU swimmer to sweep the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke events at an ACC Championship meet. Last year he won the consolation final to finish ninth in the 200 breaststroke and was 17th in the 100 breaststroke.
Stanford, California, Auburn and darkhorse Texas are expected to battle for the team title at the three-day meet.
Three Florida Gold Coast swimmers are competing.
Louisville junior Brendon Andrews of Lake Lytal Lightning will compete in the 100-yard backstroke (46.94) and 800-yard freestyle (6:23.23); Florida senior Joey Pedraza of Fort Lauderdale in the 1,650-yard freestyle (15:03.12) and Florida junior Jeff Raymond of Davie in the 200-yard freestyle (1:35.38) and 800-yard freestyle (6:16.39).
Prelims are 1 p.m. and finals 8 p.m. EST.
ESPN3 will stream coverage of the finals on Friday and Saturday. ESPN will also air a 90-minute show at 1:30 p.m. on April 6.