Katie Ledecky Makes Gator Debut as Florida Men, Women Sweep Georgia

By Braden Keith on SwimSwam

University of Georgia vs. University of Florida

October 29, 2021
O’Connell Center Pool, Gainesville, Florida
Short Course Yards (25 yards)

Full Meet Results (PDF)
Team Scores:

Florida W def. Georgia W 153-147
Florida M def. Georgia M 180-120

The Florida Gators were swimming without two of their biggest stars on Friday, racing against traditional rivals Georgia, but the men’s 500 free still had a very, very big name.

Kieran Smith and Bobby Finke, who both finished in the top 6 in the 500 yard free at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, both missed Friday’s meet. But entered in that 500 free was the University of Florida’s new volunteer assistant coach, and the fastest woman ever in the 500 free, Katie Ledecky.

Ledecky, swimming as an exhibition athlete, raced in the men’s 500 free, where she swam 4:30.55. That’s her first official 500 yard free swim since the 2018 NCAA Championships, which was the last of her collegiate career at Stanford.

That time is the 24th-fastest performance in the history of the event, which incidentally makes it the 21st-fastest performance of her personal career.

She also raced to a 1:42.80 in the men’s 200 yard freestyle event, also racing in a separate exhibition heat.

In spite of the absence of two of their biggest stars, the Florida men had no problem knocking off Georgia in a battle of the #1 and #2 teams from last year’s SEC Championship, and the #3 and #4 teams from last year’s NCAA Championship. The Florida women won a much-tighter matchup by just 6 points.

Men’s Meet Recap

The Florida men won 10 out of 16 events over Georgia. That included sweeps of both relays: the 200 medley relay in 1:25.71 to open the meet and the 400 free relay in 2:55.67 to end the meet. In both cases, Florida won by substantial margins. They actually went 1-2 in the 400 free relay, including a 2:55.67 winning mark that was 3.3 seconds better than Georgia’s “A” relay.

Kieran Smith led off the team’s 200 medley relay in the season-opener against Florida Atlantic earlier this month, but with him absent, freshman Adam Chaney was left to that slot, and he split 21.73.

Chaney later in the meet won the 100 back in 47.23.

The standout split for the Georgia medley relay came from sophomore butterflier Luca Urlando. His 19.89 is faster than Georgia’s Camden Murphy swam on the team’s “A” relay at NCAAs last season, and would have been the 6th-best split at last year’s NCAA Championship meet.

Urlando went on to win both the 200 fly (1:42.09), 100 fly (45.61), and 200 IM (1:45.12). Those are all season bests for him by a wide margin – he had previously been 1:43.3 in the 200 fly and 46.4 in the 100 fly.

Each of the three times are also the #1-ranked time in the NCAA so far this season.

The Florida men used a full team effort against Georgia. Among the 8 individual victories, only two came from double winners: Leonardo Garcia, who swept the diving events, and Dillon Hillis, who swept the 100 (54.82) and 200 (2:00.31) yard breaststrokes. They went at least 1-2-3 in both of those events, which both highlights their depth and Georgia’s weakness in the event.

Besides Urlando, Georgia got double wins from sophomore Jake Magahey, the defending NCAA Champion in the 500 free. He first won the 1000 free in 8:55.24, fighting back a 2-3-4 Gator finish, and the 500 free in 4:16.95, which again held off a gaggle of Gators.

Those swims are also both #1-ranked times in the NCAA so far this season.

Other Event Winners:

Florida junior Trey Freeman won the 200 free in 1:34.41. That’s a season best for him, almost 3 seconds faster than he was in early October against FAU.
Florida senior Will Davis won the men’s 50 free in 19.83, leading a 1-2-3-4  sweep for the Florida men. Georgia’s Dillon Downing, who was 4th in that event in the 50 free at NCAAs last season, was 5th here in 20.07.
Florida senior Gerry Quinn won the 100 free in 44.02, just ahead of Florida freshman Macguire McDuff in 44.14. That was actually a lifetime best for McDuff, as was his 20.02 for 3rd-place in the 50 free. As a high school senior last year, he was 2nd in the 100 free at the 4A State Championship meet.
Georgia’s Ian Grum won the 200 back by more than two-and-a-half seconds in a time of 1:43.49. He’s swum that race at each of Georgia’s meets this season, and has gotten progressively faster: 1:45.08 against North Carolina, to 1:44.44 against South Carolina, to a 1:43.49 against Georgia. He has also won each of those races.

Women’s Meet

The women’s meet was much tighter in the team score, with each team winning 8 events throughout the meet.

The Georgia women went 1-3 in the opening 200 medley relay to take the early lead in the meet. The young Bulldog relay of Eboni McCartyJoie Hartman, Dakota Luther, and Maxine Parker combined for a 1:39.72 to win the opening relay.

After that, however, the Florida Gators took the charge, including a sweep of the diving events by Elizabeth Perez, leading a 30-8 scoring advantage in those events alone.

Also included in that stretch was a pair of individual victories for junior sprinter Talia Bates in the 50 free (22.63), 100 free (48.82), and 100 back (54.01). Those sprint freestyles were both season-bests for her.

But Georgia wasn’t done yet. Starting with the women’s 200 breaststroke, where junior Zoie Hartman won in 2:12.25, the Bulldogs won the last 5 wins of the meet.

She was followed by Abby McCulloh, who won the 500 free in a collegiate-best time of 4:45.38. So far in her NCAA career, she has 4 wins in 6 individual swims, and has never finished lower than second-place.

After that, Dakota Luther used a big back-half to run down Florida freshman Olivia Peoples in the 100 fly for a 53.51-53.75 win, Hartman won again in the 200 IM in 1:59.27, and Georgia went 3:18.20 to close the meet with another relay win.

The Gators had a lot of 2-3 finishes in that stretch, and while that still means they were outscored, they had enough cushion going into that stretch to hold on for the victory.

Other Event Winners:

Elise Bauer kicked off the wins on the day for Florida, topping the 1000 free in 9:43.77.
Georgia freshman Dune Coetzee from South Africa won the 200 yard free in 1:47.52. That put her two-tenths ahead of Florida freshman Micayla Cronk, who finished in 1:47.75.
In addition to wins in the 200 breast and 200 IM, Zoie Hartman also won the 100 breaststroke in Georgia in 1:00.76. She was sub-1 minute in that 100 breast last weekend against North Carolina.

Dakota Luther picked up her first win in the 200 fly, winning in 1:57.00, to go with her later victory in the 100 fly.
Florida sophomore Mabel Zavaros won the 200 back in 1:56.64. While she was a 2018 high school graduate, this is the first collegiate season for the Canadian since the 2018-2019 season after sitting out the last two.

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