INDIANAPOLIS – Two nights into the 2016 NCAA Division II National Swimming & Diving Championships and Florida Southern already has two gold medals under its belt. Roughly 24 hours after winning the national title in the 200-medley relay, the Moccasins doubled up by winning the 400-medley relay to jump into third place in the team standings halfway through the National Finals.
The Moccasins were second to Queens (NC) in the prelims of the 400-medley relay on Thursday morning, but turned the tables on the Royals that night with a second straight nail-biting finish. One night earlier they'd finished 0.01 second ahead of Lindenwood, and the winning margin over Queens wasn't much more. When Jesus Marin touched the wall, it came just 0.04 seconds in front of Queens' Ben Mayes. That made Florida Southern the first team to win both medley relays in the same season since North Dakota did it in 2007.
Marin was the only one of the four Moccasin champions on Thursday who didn't get to personally celebrate the 200-yard win on Wednesday, perhaps making it even more rewarding for the senior who clinched Florida Southern's third national title in that event. The Mocs had also won it in 2011 and 2012, and were runner-up in 2013.
Along with junior Marco Palacios (backstroke), freshman Sean Kim (breaststroke), and senior Edson Lima (butterfly), who were all part of Wednesday's winning 200-medley squad, Marin helped the Mocs set a new school record with their championship time of 3:09.35. The old mark of 3:12.43 had been established in 2012 by Jeb Halfacre, Miguel Ferreira, Bruce Janzen and Stephen Swan during their gold medal run. That was also the only previous time Florida Southern won two relays at the National Finals in the same year.
For Lima, another of the Mocs' seniors, Thursday night was likely the best night of his college career. Not only was he part of the winning 400-medley relay team, he helped the 200-freestyle relay team finish fourth, and he placed fourth individually in the 100-butterfly where he set a new school record. That gave him three All-American awards for the night, and four in the meet.
Thursday night began with the 200-freestyle relay where Lima, Palacios, junior Diego Gimenez and senior Raul Garrastazu had a near-school record time of 1:19.84. They fell short of that mark by a scant 0.02 seconds. The 200-freestyle relay felt almost like a repeat of the Sunshine State Conference Championships with Tampa winning the national title in a meet-record time of 1:17.27 and beating Drury (MO) by almost two full seconds. Florida Southern was fourth, Florida Tech was tied for sixth, and Saint Leo was eighth.
Freshman Matthew Holmes was Florida Southern's lone representative in the first individual race of the night, placing 11th overall and third in the consolation finals of the 400-IM. It gave Holmes his second honorable mention All-American award of the meet after he had also placed 11th in the 200-IM on Wednesday. His 400-IM time of 3:53.75 was actually faster than the one posted by Nova Southeastern's Marco Aldabe in the championship finals, making Holmes the SSC's fastest swimmer if not finisher in that event.
The Moccasins had four swimmers competing in the 100-butterfly, but Lima was the only one who advanced to Thursday night. Lima was less than one-tenth of a second behind Allan Gutierrez's school record in that event during the prelims, but he surpassed it in the finals. Gutierrez had posted a time of 47.34 seconds during last year's national finals, but Lima set the new record of 47.12 seconds this year. It was another strong showing by the SSC too, with Saint Leo's Pawel Trenda earning the silver medal, Lima fourth, and three more conference swimmers in the consolation finals. There was nearly another, with Gimenez one spot behind qualification.
Marin was the only Moccasin in the 200-freestyle and reached the consolation finals where he finished second in a time of 1:37.28. It's the third year in a row Marin has been an honorable mention All-American in that event.
With 143½ points, Florida Southern now stands third behind Queens (NC), which has 203, and Lindenwood (MO), which has 192½. The Moccains are just ahead of fourth-place Drury (MO), which has scored 141 points, and Grand Valley State (MI) is fifth with 131. Right behind the Lakers are two SSC schools, Tampa and Nova Southeastern, who are tied for sixth with 123 points.
Day three of the National Finals gets underway Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. with prelims, and Friday night will feature finals in five more events beginning at 6 p.m.