ORLANDO – First it was Matthew Holmes, then it was Jesus Marin. Both Florida Southern swimmers not only won gold medals Friday night, they both set championship meet records in the process and propelled the Moccasins into first place halfway through the Sunshine State Conference Championships.
With its two individual wins, Florida Southern moved from fourth place to first place in the team standings and now leads second-place Nova Southeastern by 21 points, and third-place Tampa by 41. Florida Tech is fourth and trails the Moccasins by 58½ points, followed by Saint Leo in fifth place and Rollins in sixth.
Holmes broke his own school record in the 400-IM not once, but twice, and did so in the prelims by 3.36 seconds. The freshman then set his sights on the SSC Championship record and got that one Friday night. That time of 3:52.69 bettered his prelim time by a little over 1.5 seconds, fell just short of an NCAA automatic qualifying mark, and allowed him to finish 0.94 seconds ahead of 2-time defending champion Marco Aldabe of Nova Southeastern. Aldabe had previously shared the SSC Finals record in the 400-IM with Pawel Trenda of Saint Leo.
Junior Antonio Nunez-Alvarez was fourth in the 400-IM, and with redshirt junior Alec Wathen placing second in the consolation final (10th overall), the Moccasins had three swimmers finish ahead of Tampa's top performer in that event. That allowed the Mocs to make up much of the ground they needed to cover coming into the day, which started with Tampa in first place.
Later in the evening, Marin snagged his second straight league title in the 200-freestyle and topped his own championship record while doing so. He swam the race in 1:37.15, which was 0.35 seconds faster than the time he posted in 2015. (Florida Southern's Jeb Halfacre holds the overall meet record in the 200, which he set on the opening leg of the 800-feestyle relay in 2013, though Marin has the fastest time in the actual 200-freestyle championship race.) Marin was also the SSC silver medalist in 2014.
Two more Moccasins had NCAA "B" times in the 200-freestyle too with freshmen Nico Campbell and Luka Planinc also in the championship finals. Freshman Esteban Velasquez reached the consolation finals in that event as well.
In the only other individual race of the night, Florida Southern had three of its swimmers reach the championship final of the 100-butterfly, and two more reach the consolation final. While Nova Southeastern junior Thiago Sickert won the title for the second year in a row with a new league record time of 47.14 seconds, junior Marco Palacios brought home a bronze medal for the Moccasins in 47.74 seconds. Junior Diego Gimenez was fourth and senior Edson Lima was sixth. All three Moccasins had NCAA "B" times, as did senior Raul Garrastazu who was the runner-up in the consolation final. Freshman Sean Kim was fourth in the consolation race.
The two relay races that were contested on Friday saw Florida Southern finish fifth in the 200-freestyle relay and second in the 400-medley. The Moccasins had provisional qualifying times in both of them, with Gimenez, Palacios, Campbell and Garrastazu swimming in the first one, which was won by Tampa in a meet-record time.
Then, in the final race of the night, Palacios, Kim, Lima and Marin gave Florida Southern a silver medal in the 400-medley relay where another meet record was broken by Nova Southeastern. The Mocs not only got a "B" time in that one, their second 400-medley relay team of junior Evan Coleman, sophomore Luis Jasso, Nunez-Alvarez and Holmes had another one.
Day three begins with Saturday morning at 10 a.m., with the finals in five more events in the evening at 6 p.m.