BIRMINGHAM, AL – With a chance to finish in the top-five at the NCAA Division II Men's Swimming & Diving Championships for the sixth year in a row, senior backstroke swimmers Marco Palacios and Evan Coleman made sure the Moccasins would indeed do it again. Palacios won the silver medal in the 200-back and got scoring help from Coleman in the consolation finals, and a bronze medal from the 400-freestyle relay team that also included Palacios moved the Moccasins into fourth place at the end of the night. Florida Southern is the only team to finish in the top-five at the Division II Finals each of the last six years.
The silver medal was the second as an individual swimmer for Palacios in his career after he earned one last year in the 100-back. It's the third year in a row Palacios has finished top-eight at the National Finals in the 200-backstroke, making him an All-American in that event all three years that he competed for the Moccasins. He also won a bronze in this year's 100-back, and is a 2-time All-American at that distance.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Seeking their sixth straight top-five finish at the National Finals, the Moccasins began the night sitting in fifth, 39 points ahead of Lindenwood (MO), but just 10 points away from fourth place Grand Valley State (MI), and 17 from third-place Nova Southeastern. The Mocs had only sophomore Luka Planinc in the first event, the 1,650-freestyle, and though he did not qualify for one of the 16 point positions, neither Grand Valley State nor Lindenwood had anyone do that either. Nova Southeastern had two, however, including national runner-up Franco Lupoli.
- The Moccasins had three swimmers in the prelims of the 100-freestyle, but junior Noah Franz, sophomore Matthew Holmes and senior Diego Gimenez were unable to reach the prelims. Franz had the best time of that group, 44.65 seconds, and was 0.26 seconds shy of advancing. With no one from Lindenwood again scoring points, it kept the Mocs' margin for fifth place at 39 over the Lions, though they did fall a little further behind GVSU, which had the 10th-place finisher in the 100-freestyle, and Nova Southeastern, which had Thiago Sickert place fifth.
- With Palacios finishing second in the 200-backstroke, and senior Evan Coleman placing 13th, the Moccasins made up some of that difference with a total of 21 points in the event. Nova Southeastern had 16, GVSU had nine, and Lindenwood scored 11. It widened the Mocs' lead over the Lions to 49 points and got them back within five of the Lakers who were still fourth. Palacios won his silver medal by swimming the championship race in 1:43.44, the fastest time of his career and just 0.03 seconds away from Jeb Halfacre's school record set at the 2012 National Finals. Palacios was 1.36 seconds off the pace by national champion Paul Pijulet of Queens (NC), who had already won the 100-backstroke on Friday, and he was 2.27 seconds ahead of third-place Marco Aldabe from Nova Southeastern. Coleman, meanwhile, took fifth in the consolation final to give Florida Southern multiple All-American awards in the 200-backstroke for the fifth time in the last six years.
- With no Lindenwood swimmers having qualified for the 200-breaststroke, the performance of Palacios and Coleman officially clinched fifth place for Florida Southern, but junior Luis Jasso got the Mocs a little closer to fourth with his showing in the 200-breast. Jasso posted a time of 1:55.98, falling a little under half a second off the school record he set at last month's conference championships, which was good for fourth place Saturday night at the national championships. It's the third year in a row Jasso has been either an All-American or honorable mention All-American in the 200-breast, and by finishing one spot ahead of Grand Valley State's Marius Mikalauskas, it also got the Mocs within four points of the Lakers in the overall team standings with one event remaining. The 200-breaststroke was won by Nova Southeastern's Anton Lobanov, who swept the breaststroke events for the third year in a row.
- In the final event of the meet, Grand Valley State won the consolation final in the 400-freestyle relay, pushing the Lakers' lead for fourth place back up to 22 points. Since the minimum score in the championship finals was 22 points, the Moccasins knew that barring a DQ, they would at least tie the Lakers for fourth in the overall team standings. They went out and secured that spot with a bronze medal from Franz, Gimenez, senior Antonio Nunez-Alvarez and Palacios. Their time of 2:56.01 was the Mocs' best of the season and put them behind only Queens and Wingate in the race. For Franz, Gimenez and Palacios, it was their second bronze of the meet in a relay event after all three swimmers were part of the Mocs' third-place finish in the 200-freestyle relay on Thursday.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Queens (NC) won its third straight national championship with 563½ points, and Drury (MO) was this year's national runner-up with 350 points. The Sunshine State Conference took the next two spots with Nova Southeastern third (313 points) and Florida Southern fourth (265 points). Grand Valley State finished fifth with 255. Completing the top-10 were Wingate (NC), Lindenwood, Delta State (MS), Fresno Pacific (CA) and Simon Fraser (BC).