Oct. 25, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- After facing national powers Texas A&M and North Carolina in the season opener two weeks ago, the schedule doesn't get any easier for the South Carolina swimming and diving teams moving forward. The Gamecocks host perennial power Florida on Friday in the final home meet of the fall at the Blatt P.E. Center/Carolina Natatorium.
Rival Clemson's diving team will also be in town to compete, with the diving events scheduled to get underway at approximately 12:45 p.m. The swimming events will begin at 2 p.m. The Florida men's squad heads to Columbia as the top-ranked team in the country, while the Gator women are coming off a strong finish to the 2011-12 season that resulted in a 10th-place showing at the NCAA Championships.
South Carolina head coach McGee Moody said his teams are looking forward to the challenge of facing the Gators.
"This is an opportunity for our men to have to step up," Moody said. "There's not a better team in the country right now than the University of Florida. This is not something that we are afraid of and it's not something that we are not used to.
"Looking at where our men are, they truly believe they are going to come in our place and we are going to go race them. We are going to give them our best effort, and the women are in the same boat. If our athletes are ready, they are going to have to step up and perform better than they have ever performed before. If we do that, I think we will be fine. We will be able to go out and race with them."
The Gamecock men enter the meet ranked No. 12 in the country in the first CSCAA Poll of the season. It's the highest ranking since the 2002 squad finished the regular season ranked eighth. The Gamecocks are 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the SEC after defeating Texas A&M and falling to North Carolina to open the season. On the women's side, South Carolina lost to both teams to start the year at 0-2 and 0-1 in the conference.
The Gamecocks put up several nationally ranked times in the opening meet including three by junior Michael Flach. A native of Annandale, Va., Flach is ranked No. 6 in the 200-yard freestyle (1:38.56), ninth in the 200-yard butterfly (1:48.69) and 12th in the 200-yard IM (1:50.95). Freshman Marwan El Kamash (ninth-1000 freestyle, 15th-500 freestyle) and juniors Matt Navata (11th-200 breaststroke, 15th-200 IM) and Gerard Rodriguez (10th-200 freestyle) have also recorded ranked times. Junior Amanda Rutqvist led the women with the 10th fastest time in the country in the 200-yard breaststroke with a mark of 2:14.87.
"In the opening meet, I was pleased with how we raced," Moody said. "I thought we got up and raced hard. It was an opportunity for us as coaches to see how the training we did over the first eight to 10 weeks is starting to pan out. We liked what we saw."
On the boards, the Gamecock divers picked up where they left off last season with another strong performance. Sophomore Cole Miller achieved NCAA Zone qualifying scores on both the one and three-meter springboards. He finished second on the three-meter with a score of 382.95 and third on the one-meter with a total of 306.00. Sophomore Patricia Kranz won the women's one-meter competition with a Zone qualifying score of 285.95.
The Gators opened the season in strong fashion as both the men's and women's teams won the Florida Invitational in late September. Both teams will compete in a dual meet at Georgia tonight before heading to Columbia.
Florida has one of the most talented rosters in the country and will showcase six student-athletes who competed at the London Olympics on Friday. On the women's side, junior Elizabeth Beisel will lead the way for Florida. Beisel, who holds the nation's fastest time in the 200-yard backstroke, won a silver medal in the 400-meter IM and a bronze medal in the 200-meter backstroke at the Olympics. Sarra Lajnef, Hilda Luthersdottir and Sinead Russell also participated in their first Olympic games.
The Florida men enter the meet with several swimmers at the top of the nation's fastest times list. Juniors Sebastien Rousseau (200-yard butterfly, 400-yard IM) and Marcin Ciesiak (100-yard butterfly) and sophomore Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez (200-yard IM) all have the fastest time in the nation in their respective events. Rousseau and Ciesiak were the Gator men's representatives in London.
Friday marks the first dual meet between South Carolina and Florida since 2008. The Gators swept the Gamecocks in that meeting, claiming the men's matchup, 167-126, and winning the women's competition, 168.5-126.5. The Gamecock men are 2-20 all-time against Florida with the last win coming in 1994. South Carolina's women are 0-17 all-time against the Gators.
Doors will open at 12:30 p.m. on Friday at the Blatt P.E. Center/Carolina Natatorium, and admission is free. Live results will be available by clicking here.
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