ORLANDO, FL – Day three of the Sunshine State Conference Men's Swimming Championships proved to be the best so far for Florida Southern as senior Marco Palacios won his third consecutive gold medal in the 100-backstroke, and sophomore Luka Planinc won an individual silver and a relay silver to keep the Moccasins within 55 points of Nova Southeastern.
The Sharks won three of the five races held Saturday night to push their point total to 676 with one day remaining. Florida Southern has 621 points, and Tampa is third with 471½. Florida Tech (444), Saint Leo (218½) and Rollins (136) complete the standings.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Florida Southern got off to a good start Saturday night with three swimmers competing in the championship final of the 500-freestyle. One of those was sophomore Luka Planinc who won a silver medal with his time of 4:27.97, which was 4½ seconds faster than his previous season-best time coming into the meet. He was 2.53 seconds behind gold medalist Franco Lupoli of Nova Southeastern. Sophomore Matthew Holmes placed sixth for the Moccasins and freshman Jonathan Sawyer was seventh. Holmes had another NCAA "B" time for the Mocs as well.
- The Moccasins had even more success in the 100-backstroke where Palacios won the gold medal in 47.11 seconds, setting a new record for the SSC Championships. That bettered his own previous mark of 47.15 set two years ago, and it also gave the Moccasins their first automatic NCAA qualifier of the season. Senior Diego Gimenez, who finished ahead of Palacios in the morning prelims, came in second during the finals at 48.41 seconds, and Evan Coleman was fourth in 49.14 seconds. Both of those times were NCAA provisional marks. The Mocs also got a seventh place finish from junior Luka Matacin, and freshman Talor Hamilton won the consolation final as well. With five of the top nine swimmers in the 100-back, the Mocs scored enough points in that event to get them within 24 of the first-place Sharks.
- The 100-breaststroke saw junior Luisa Jasso finish as runner-up and sophomore Sean Kim place fourth, both of them with NCAA provisional times. Jasso had a season-best time of 53.93 seconds, which put him 1.24 seconds behind Nova Southeastern junior Anton Lobanov. Lobanov had an automatic qualifying time of 52.69 seconds in winning the 100-breaststroke for the third year in a row.
- In the 200-butterfly, senior Antonio Nunez-Alvarez gave the Moccasins a bronze medal with his third-place finish in 1:48.20. That new season-best and NCAA "B" time was 0.77 seconds behind the winner, Sean Rodney of Tampa, with defending champion Thiago Sickert of Nova Southeastern finishing 0.64 seconds off the pace. Sawyer reached the consolation finals and placed 12th overall.
- In the final race of the night, Nova Southeastern finished 2.58 seconds ahead of Florida Southern to take the top spot in the 800-freestyle relay. The Mocs' team of sophomore Nico Campbell, junior Noah Franz, Holmes and Planinc clocked in at 6:33.55, giving them an NCAA "B" time which was almost 10 seconds faster than the Mocs' best time in that event this season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Only one Moccasin swimmer has ever had a better time at the SSC Championships in the 500-free than what Planinc had on Saturday. That was Raul Garrastazu, who won the gold medal in 2014.
- The Moccasins had a similar showing in the 100-backstroke last year when Palacios was first, Gimenez was third and four of the top eight swimmers were from Florida Southern. Palacios and Gimenez were also first and third in 2015 when the Mocs had four of the top seven and five of the top 10.
- The SSC Championships conclude Sunday with prelims at 10 a.m. and finals in five events at 5 p.m.