LAKELAND – Riding a gold medal performance by senior Marco Palacios in the 100-backstroke and silver medals by freshman Sean Kim and senior Raul Garrastazu, Florida Southern was able to expand on its lead with one day remaining in the Sunshine State Conference Championships. The Moccasins will carry a 34-point lead over Nova Southeastern in its quest for a fourth straight league title.
Florida Southern has scored 594½ points through the first three days and Nova Southeastern has 560½. Tampa is in third place with 495½ points, followed by Florida Tech (430), Saint Leo (355½), and Rollins (146).
Before Palacios won his gold medal, the Moccasins were already off to a good start when their 500-freestyle swimmers started the scoring by claiming three of the top nine positions in that race. Nova Southeastern, who was chasing Florida Southern in the overall standings, had the runner-up in the 500, but its next best swimmers placed eighth and 11th. Senior Jesus Marin grabbed the bronze medal for the Moccasins in 4:30.30, and freshman Matthew Holmes was 1.68 seconds behind him. Freshman Luka Planinc finished ninth and all three Florida Southern swimmers clocked NCAA provisional times. Saint Leo's Daniel Bis won the title in 4:26.42.
Palacios followed that performance with his win in the 100-backstroke and did so with an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 47.30 seconds. He finished 0.67 seconds ahead of Saint Leo's Pawel Trenda, and 0.69 seconds ahead of Florida Southern junior Diego Gimenez. Nova Southeastern had the next two swimmers touch the wall, but Florida Southern ended up with sixth and eighth behind senior Edson Lima and junior Evan Coleman. Freshman Christian Gilbreath gave the Mocs more points by reaching the consolation finals.
Though Nova's Anton Lobanov won the 100-breaststroke for the second year in a row, the Moccasins had the silver and bronze medalists in Kim and sophomore Luis Jasso who both had NCAA provisional qualifying times. The Mocs repeated that feat in the 200-butterfly where Garrastazu and junior Antonio Nunez-Alvarez were second and third behind Nova's Thiago Sickert. It gives Garrastazu two gold medals and two silvers in the 200-butterfly in his career. Redshirt junior Alec Wathen and Coleman reached the consolation finals as well.
In the final race of the night, Florida Southern's 800-freestyle relay team of Marin, freshman Nico Campbell, Nunez-Alvarez and Holmes placed third with an NCAA "B" time of 6:35.75. Nova Southeastern won the gold medal, but the Moccasins got some of the point difference back when their second team of Garrastazu, Wathen, Planinc and freshman Esteban Velasquez won the consolation final.
The final day of the SSC Championships gets underway Sunday morning at 10 a.m., with the finals in five events scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday night.