ORLANDO – The first day of the Sunshine State Conference Championships could not have been much closer than it was with the top four teams within 15 points of first place. Florida Southern was among that group after a top-flight performance in the 200-individual medley. The Moccasins had three of the top five in that event, and a second-place finish in the 200-medley relay to end the day in fourth place overall.
The team standings showed Tampa at the top with 151½ points, but second-place Nova Southeastern had 146½, and third-place Florida Tech had 139. Florida Southern scored 136½ on Thursday for fourth place and was followed by Saint Leo with 115½ and Rollins with 34. Oddly enough Saint Leo sat fifth even after the Lions were the only team to win two races on Thursday, and they were the first two held.
Of the four events on the schedule, the Moccasins had their best performance in the 200-individual medley where junior Antonio Nunez-Alvarez, senior Jesus Marin, and freshman Matthew Holmes all made it to the championship finals and all had NCAA provisional qualifying times. Prior to Thursday, Holmes had been the only Moccasin swimmer to accomplish that this season and his time of 1:49.18 was the best during prelims. In the finals, however, Saint Leo senior Pawel Trenda successfully defended his title by winning the race in 1:46.87, which broke his own championship record by one one-hundredth of a second.
Nunez-Alvarez was third in 1:49.28, followed closely by Marin and Holmes. The three Moccasins were separated by less than one second. Freshman teammate Sean Kim was almost within that same time frame while winning the consolation final in 1:50.68, which gave the Moccasins a fourth NCAA provisional qualifier in the 200-IM. That race was dominated by Florida Southern, with Kim first, sophomore Luis Jasso third, junior Evan Coleman fourth, and redshirt junior Alec Wathen sixth. That gave Florida Southern seven of the 16 swimmers in the meet who scored points in the 200-IM, with no other team having more than three.
The Moccasins' best finish of the day belonged to their 200-medley relay team of junior Marco Palacios, Kim, senior Edson Lima, and junior Diego Gimenez, which placed second in the final race of the night. The Mocs had an NCAA "B" time of 1:28.82 and were only 0.19 seconds behind Tampa. The Moccasins have either won the 200-medley relay or been the runner-up all six years of the SSC Championship Meet.
Palacios and Lima were also Florida Southern's top swimmers in the 50-freestyle, though it was there that Tampa made its mark. The Spartans had five of the eight finalists who combined to score 65½ points, with Florida Tech scoring 36 in that event and Nova Southeastern 31½. Florida Tech had the individual champion in Nir Barnea who barely missed a championship record with his winning time of 19.98 seconds.
The Moccasins were able to get 5½ from Palacios and Lima in the consolation finals, with each of them hitting NCAA provisional qualifying times. Gimenez, who had the Moccasins' best time in the 50-freestyle during the regular season, was disqualified during prelims, but Palacios and Lima helped keep them close.
Senior Raul Garrastazu was Florida Southern's lead swimmer in the 1,000-freestyle where he finished in eighth place in a season-best and NCAA provisional time of 9:24.11. Garrastazu was the only Moccasin to score in that event. The gold medal was claimed by Saint Leo sophomore Daniel Bis, who won the 1,000 for the second year in a row.
Day two of the SSC Championships begins Friday morning at 10 a.m. with preliminaries, and ends Friday night with finals in five events.