ORLANDO, FL – Senior Marco Palacios finished off another gold medal backstroke sweep Sunday and junior Luis Jasso pushed one of the school's breaststroke records to a higher level on the final day of the 2017 Sunshine State Conference Men's Swimming Championships. That allowed Florida Southern to secure second place in the team standings behind Nova Southeastern.
After winning the 100-backstroke for the third year in a row on Saturday, Palacios won his third straight 200-backstroke title Sunday night. He's the first men's swimmer in SSC history to win three consecutive conference titles in two different events. Nova Southeastern's Thiago Sickert had a chance to accomplish that earlier Sunday night after winning the 100-butterfly earlier in the meet, but the senior ended up second in the 100-freestyle.
With Jasso setting a new school record in the 200-breast and joining Palacios as an automatic NCAA qualifier, the Moccasins easily clinched a runner-up finish as a team with 841 points. Nova Southeastern won the SSC title, its third in the last seven years, by scoring 895. Tampa was third with 659½ points, followed by Florida Tech (603), Saint Leo (272½), and Rollins (174).
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Nova Southeastern was able to gain a little more breathing room by taking the top two spots in the 1,650-freestyle where Franco Lupoli won in 15:31.72. Florida Southern's Luka Planinc finished third for a bronze medal with a time of 15:43.94, bettering his regular season NCAA "B" time by more than 10 seconds. Freshman Jonathan Sawyer, sophomore Charles Gotsch and sophomore Esteban Velasquez also scored points for the Moccasins by placing 12th, 13th, and 16th respectively, with Sawyer dropping more than 20 seconds off his time.
- In the 100-freestyle, Nova Southeastern senior Thiago Sickert was going for his third straight title in that event, but was beaten out by Florida Tech sophomore Victor Rocha Furtado, and nearly by Florida Southern junior Noah Franz as well. Furtado won in 43.89 seconds, Sickert was 0.25 seconds behind him, and Franz was 0.2 seconds behind Sickert at 44.34. That was the fastest time by a Moccasin this year. Senior Diego Gimenez was eighth in the 100-free in a time of 44.90 seconds, and sophomore Nico Campbell was 11th in 44.96 seconds. All of them had season-best and NCAA provisional qualifying times.
- Palacios then claimed victory in the 200-backstroke by swimming the race in 1:44.78, not only his second NCAA automatic qualifying time of the meet, but very nearly a new SSC Championship record. The only time faster than what Palacios posted Sunday night was turned in by former Moccasin Jeb Halfacre in 2012, and the margin was only 0.01 second. Palacios beat Nova Southeastern senior Marco Aldabe by 1.23 seconds. The Moccasins also got fourth- and seventh-place finishes from junior Luka Matacin and senior Evan Coleman, with Matacin hitting an NCAA "B" time for the first time this season during the meet. Freshman Talor Hamilton and sophomore Christian Gilbreath were in the consolation final of the 200-back and finished 12th and 13th overall.
- Florida Southern's best event overall on Sunday was the 200-breaststroke where the Moccasins had four of the top six swimmers, though Nova Southeastern junior Anton Lobanov won the gold medal for the third year in a row. His time of 1:54.24 was 1.28 seconds ahead of Jasso in the closest 200-breaststroke championship race since 2011. Jasso's time of 1:55.52, however, was not only good enough for a school record, it was also an NCAA automatic qualifying time. After Nova's Thomas Rutherford finished third, the Moccasins had the fourth through sixth positions with sophomore Sean Kim, sophomore Matthew Holmes and senior Antonio Nunez-Alvarez. All three Moccasins were within 0.28 seconds of each other, just under the 2:03 mark.
- In the last race of the meet, Florida Southern's 400-freestyle relay team of Franz, Campbell, Holmes and Gimenez finished third in 2:57.69 to improve on their best NCAA "B" time of the regular season. Florida Tech won the gold medal in 2:56.59, with the top three teams finishing 1.1 second apart.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Lupoli became the first men's swimmer in SSC history to win four individual titles at the conference championships. Prior to winning the 1,650-free on Sunday he had also won the 1,000-free on Thursday, the 200-free on Friday, and the 500-free on Saturday.
- Franz had the fastest time any Moccasin has ever recorded in the 100-freestyle race at the conference championships.
- With Palacios now a three-time champion, a Florida Southern swimmer has won the 200-backstroke each of the seven years the SSC has held a championship meet. Jeb Halfacre won the first two followed by Luis Rojas in 2013 and Thomas Nguyen in 2014.
- Jasso's new school record in the 200-breaststroke broke his own record by 0.68 seconds. He had set that at last year's Division II National Finals.
- Nova Southeastern and Florida Southern are the only teams to ever win the SSC Men's Swimming Championships. The Sharks now have three titles (2011, 2012, and 2017) and the Moccasins have four (2013-16).
The Moccasins will now await selections for the NCAA Division II National Championships, which will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, March 8-11. Those selections will be announced on Wednesday, February 22.