Florida men’s swimming opens up 2011 NCAA Championships with strong showing

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The No. 5 University of Florida men’s swimming and diving team qualified for the “A” finals of three events Thursday morning at the opening session of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis, Minn.

“It was a pretty good morning,” head coach Gregg Troy said. “We were a little bit rocky getting started, but then swam real well. We had a couple of 500-yard freestyles we let get away from us. Other than that, it was a good morning.”

Defending NCAA Male Swimmer of the Year Conor Dwyer (Winnetka, Ill.) picked up where he left off at last year’s NCAA meet by winning the last heat of the 500-yard freestyle. The senior captain’s time of 4:15.55 placed him third overall and qualified the U.S. National Team member for the “A” finals. Finishing with their best career finishes in the event were senior Joey Pedraza (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and junior Jeffrey Raymond (Davie, Fla.). Pedraza finished 22nd overall with a season-best time of 4:20.49 in heat two, while Raymond took the next spot at 23rd by clocking in at a season-best 4:20.56 in the same heat. Also competing in the event for the Gators were senior Balazs Gercsak (Budapest, Hungary) and freshman Connor Signorin (East Windsor, N.J.), who wrapped up their first race of the meet in 27th (4:21.77) and 31st place (4:22.35), respectively.

In the 200-yard individual medley, where two former Florida swimmers (Bradley Ally and Ryan Lochte) own the NCAA, American, U.S. Open and NCAA record, the Gators qualified a swimmer in both the “A” finals and the “B” finals. Freshman Marcin Cieslak (Warsaw, Poland) made a splash in his NCAA debut, qualifying for the “A” finals with a sixth-place overall finish of 1:44.24. Sophomore Sebastien Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), made his first career finals in the event with a 10th-place finish. The 2008 Olympian’s season-best time of 1:44.38 was just .03 off his personal best. Also competing in the event for UF were senior Mike Joyce (Voorhees, N.J.) and junior Brian Howell (Cincinnati, Ohio), who clocked in at 1:46.70 (32nd) and 1:47.05 (41st), respectively.

Freshman Brad deBorde (Longwood, Fla.) and senior Brett Fraser (George Town, Cayman Islands) just missed reaching the “B” finals of the 50 free. Making his NCAA Championship debut, deBorde touched the wall in a personal-best 19.63 to finish 17th, tying Fraser’s 2011 SEC Championship mark for the fastest time by a Gator this season, along with the second-fastest time in school history. Fraser tied with two others for 18th in the race, putting his hand on the wall in 19.64. Sophomore Scott Sommer (Ocala, Fla.) placed 50th overall with a time of 20.25.

The 400-yard medley relay concluded the first session of the meet, with the Florida men finishing in second overall with the fifth-fastest time in school history. Florida’s quartet of redshirt sophomore Marco Loughran (London, England), Dwyer, Cieslak and Fraser finished with a time of 3:07.27. The Gators entered the meet with the fastest time in the country, with the group swimming 3:04.99 at the SEC meet last month in their home pool.

In the first relay of the day, the Gators finished 14th overall in the 200-yard freestyle relay to qualify for the evening’s “B” finals. Florida’s foursome of deBorde, junior James Turner (Ft. Pierce, Fla.), Loughran and Sommer turned in a time of 1:18.59, making it the 10th-quickest 200 free relay mark in school history.

UF Men Qualifying for “A” Finals

Conor Dwyer – 500 Free

Marcin Cieslak – 200 IM

TEAM – 400 Medley Relay

UF Men Qualifying for “B” Finals

Sebastien Rousseau – 200 IM

TEAM – 200 Free Relay