Complete Results | Photo GalleryAfter losing two consecutive weekends, the sixth-ranked Tennessee men’s swimming and diving team ended a five year losing streak to the Florida Gators on Saturday. Seniors Octavio Alesi, Ryan Rincon and Michael Wolfe led the Volunteers to a 160-140 victory on senior day at the UT Student Aquatic Center.
“It was a fantastic end to this chapter of UT swimming and diving,” Tennessee head coach John Trembley said. “I’m really happy for the team, the athletics department and, especially, Coach Ray Bussard. This is Coach Bussard’s pool; his name is on the wall and it was very befitting that he was here to witness the last meet at this pool over his traditional rival Florida.”
The win moves UT to an all-time record of 163-13 at the UT Student Aquatic Center. Bussard compiled a 92-5 record at the site and Trembley tallied a 71-8 record, ending the pool’s 40 year history with a victory.
“Of course, we are very pleased with the team score and effort,” Trembley said. “But it was great to see the seniors go out with a win over a very respectable opponent. Both teams were hit and miss today because neither team performed particularly well given where both teams are at in their training with the SECs coming up in a couple of weeks. Florida swam extremely well and hard. It was a pretty close meet, but we were fortunate to come out on top.”
Seniors Michael Wolfe and Octavio Alesi helped the team’s strong start when the 200 medley relay swam to a 1:29.14 victory. Freshman Scott Friderichs swam a season best 9:30.24 in the 1000 freestyle. Geoffrey Sanders and Carl Jones fell just short of their season bests with a 9:16.55 fourth-place finish and a 9:24.38 sixth-place finish, respectively. Florida’s Tobias Work, who leads the SEC in the event, won with a time of 9:08.38.
Jonas Persson followed the 1000 freestyle with a win in the 200 freestyle, clocking in at a season-best 1:35.74. Junior Scott Wherry came in third-place at 1:39.85, which is also his season’s best.
“Persson was a double winner today individually,” Trembley said. “In the 200 freestyle, he took control early on and never yielded. It was a great win for him. Also, Wherry had a lights-out day with his season-best time. He was very impressive today.”
Nolan Morrell then took second in the 100 backstroke in 49.38. Florida’s Omar Pinzon won the race in 48.68. Next, Barry Murphy and Brad Craig went one and two in the 100 breaststroke with times of 56.10 and 56.18, respectively. The team captain Wolfe darted to a first-place finish in the 200 butterfly, splashing in at 1:46.07.
Alesi also shined again as he went on to triumph in the 50 freestyle at 20.56. However, the surprise of the meet came when sophomore Jordan Walters placed second with his best collegiate time of 20.80. As the team rallied behind Walters, divers Michael Muscari and Chris Davis followed the performance with first- and second- place finishes, respectively. Muscari collected 323.25 points on the dive and Davis topped his season’s best with 307.58 points, which satisfied the NCAA Zone Z standard. Rincon, after suffering from the stomach virus, fought to a fourth-place finish (285.83).
“Alesi, as expected on senior day, won the 50 freestyle,” Trembley said. “And Walters too swam lights-out in his first second-place finish in a dual meet. Walter’s win and the one-meter diving really gave us a momentum shift,” Trembley said. “Walters is one of our quiet guys and he has been injured for two years. He’s really struggled with some severe ankle difficulties, but he really stepped up. His swim really electrified the team, and the divers kept that going. It was a nice point in the meet to have a great swim by an unheralded team member and our divers to seal the deal at that point in the meet.”
The meet was all downhill for Trembley and the Vols as the rest of the day offered solid performances from all Tennessee participants. Persson and Morrell went one and two in the 100 freestyle, respectively. Brad Craig won the 200 breaststroke in 1:59.92. Sanders took a 4:31.26 second-place finish in the 500 freestyle. Alesi captured second-place in the 100 butterfly while Michael DeRocco swam strongly to a third-place finish (48.75).
Michael Muscari again excelled after winning his second event on the day atop the three-meter boards. Muscari earned a score of 342.00 and Davis almost pulled off the win over his teammate, placing second with 340.50 points. Rincon placed fourth with 279.90 points.
“Today was obviously a special day for Rincon,” UT diving coach Dave Parrington said. “However, he lost seven pounds this week from having the stomach virus. So, he was a little steamed near the end but he fought valiantly. Muscari was tough on both boards, winning for the first time in his career both events. I’m very proud of Chris Davis. He obtained an NCAA qualifying score and really showed today that he could compete in this conference.”
At the meet’s conclusion, Wolfe took second-place in the 200 I.M. against two of Florida’s world class swimmers, Bradley Ally and Clark Burckle. Morrell, Persson, Murphy and Alesi capped off the day with a 2:58.98 first-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay.
Next up for the Volunteers is the SEC Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., lasting from Feb. 20-23. The event will be held at the Alabama Aquatic Center.