INDIANAPOLIS – The gap between third and fourth place closed considerably in the early stages of Saturday night's final session of the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving National Championships, but in the end Florida Southern still had enough firepower to grab another trophy for the case. Led by backstroke specialist Marco Palacios and breaststroke swimmers Luis Jasso and Sean Kim, the Moccasins pulled away from conference rival Nova Southeastern to take third place at the 2016 National Finals. It was the fifth straight top-five finish for the Moccasins, and the third time they've been third or higher.
Florida Southern had no swimmers in the 1,650-freestyle Saturday, and junior Diego Gimenez was the only Moccasin to qualify for the consolation finals in the 100-freestyle with seniors Jesus Marin and Edson Lima missing by less than three-tenths of a second. Gimenez got the Mocs points though with his time of 44.39 seconds after he had challenged Robbie Swan's school record in the morning prelims.
After those two events Saturday night, Florida Southern's 34½-point margin over Nova Southeastern had shrunk to 11½, but that's when Palacios again stepped up for the Moccasins. As their only competitor in the 200-backstroke, the junior placed eighth overall and picked up his second individual All-American award of the meet. He had won a silver medal in the 100-backstroke Friday, giving him a total of 28 points in the two backstroke events. As a team, the Moccasins got 54 points out of the backstroke compared to just nine for Nova Southeastern.
The Sharks did get a gold medal from Anton Lobanov in the 200-breaststroke for the second year in a row, but even there the Moccasins found a way to come out ahead. Jasso finished fourth in a time of 1:56.20, which shattered the previous school record by nearly two seconds, and Kim was 10th overall and second in the consolation finals at 1:58.67. That gave the two FSC breaststroke swimmers 22 points to Lobanov's 20 as the only Shark swimming in either the finals or consolation finals.
With their lead now at 15½ points, the Moccasins were all but assured of a third-place finish going into the 400-freestyle relay where they had qualified for the championship finals and the Sharks were in the consolation race. The Sharks scored just eight points in that one and the Mocs closed things out with their own fourth-place finish and a school record on top of it. Posting that record time of 2:55.35 were Marin, Palacios, Lima and Gimenez, who became the fourth different FSC relay team to finish fourth or higher at this year's National Finals.
Another SSC team won the 400-freestyle relay, with Tampa setting a new national record in the process. With Tampa also winning the 200-freestyle earlier in the week, and Florida Southern sweeping the medley relays, it meant the Sunshine State Conference claimed four of the five relay events overall.
Queens (NC) won the Division II National Championship for the second year in a row by out-scoring Lindenwood (MO) 449 to 382½. Florida Southern was third with 299½ points, Nova Southeastern was fourth with 262, and Delta State (MS) was fifth with 249.
Saint Leo and Tampa were in the top-10 as well, with the Lions eighth and the Spartans ninth. The Sunshine State Conference was the only league with four top-10 teams.
All eight Florida Southern men's swimmers (Palacios, Jasso, Kim, Gimenez, Marin, Lima, senior Raul Garrastazu, and freshman Matthew Holmes) received at least one All-American or honorable mention All-American award at the Finals.