INDIANAPOLIS – The 2016 NCAA Division II National Swimming & Diving Championships has already produced another national title for Florida Southern. With a school-record performance from junior Marco Palacios, freshman Sean Kim, senior Edson Lima, and junior Diego Gimenez, the Moccasins won the 200-medley relay to give the men's swimming team its eighth gold medal all-time at the National Finals.
During Wednesday's prelims, the Moccasins had finished second with Palacios, Kim, Lima, and Gimenez nearly setting a school record at 1:27.78. That was just 0.07 seconds away from the mark set by their winning team of Jeb Halfacre, Miguel Ferreira, Allan Gutierrez and Robbie Swan at the 2013 National Championships, and it was the Mocs' fastest time since then. That had also been the Moccasins' last gold medal until Wednesday night's championship finals.
With the Moccasins behind Lindenwood after three legs, Gimenez was in the pool as the freestyle anchor and brought Florida Southern back in a photo finish decided by one one-hundredth of a second. He swam his 50-yard leg in 19.47 seconds, giving the Moccasins 40 points in the standings and vaulting them into seventh place in the overall team standings at the end of the night. The Mocs' winning time of 1:26.24 was almost exactly one second faster than the previous school record set in 2013.
With only one qualifier in the 1,000-freestyle that opened the meet, the Moccasins saw senior Raul Garrastazu finish 18th with a time of 9:25.11. That put him four spots higher than his seed time coming into the race but a little over three seconds away from scoring Florida Southern's first point of the meet. Saint Leo's Daniel Bis, who had the #2 seed, ended up fourth and defending champion Nick Arakelian of Queens (NC) had to settle for second behind one of his own teammates, Dion Dreesens, who rose from the #7 seed to win and got the reigning team champions off to a good start.
The Moccasins got on the board in the second race when freshman Matthew Holmes tied for 11th in the 200-IM. He was one of only two freshmen in that event who advanced to either the championship finals or consolation finals. His time of 1:48.32 was his fastest of the year and allowed him to earn honorable mention All-American status in the first NCAA postseason race of his career. Holmes had entered the race with the #21 seed time before his 11th-place finish.
Though three swimmers had eligible times, Florida Southern did not have any participants in the 50-freestyle and instead prepped for the 200-medley relay that would bring day one to a close.
Largely on the strength of its 1,000-freestyle swimmers, Queens held the lead with 88 points, followed by Lindenwood with 77½, Nova Southeastern with 65, Tampa with 61, and Drury (MO) with 53. Delta State (MS) was sixth with 46 points, and Florida Southern was seventh with 45½. Grand Valley State was only half a point behind Florida Southern in eighth place.
Day two of the National Finals gets underway Thursday at 10:30 a.m. with prelims, and the finals in five events at 6:00 that evening.