NCAA Men’s Championships: Arizona State Capitalizes as Florida Faces Relay Disqualification


As the 400 medley relay, the last event of the third day at the NCAA Men’s Championships, got underway, Florida had reduced Arizona State’s lead in the team competition to thirty points.

Twelve Gators swimmers qualified for individual competition in the evening session, and the team put up a great show that night, highlighted by Josh Liendo’s victory in the 100-meter butterfly.

With a time eight-tenths faster than the Gators’ 2023 NCAA mark, Florida looked to be second behind Arizona State in the 400 medley relay, meaning that ASU’s lead was only increased by six points. But at the end of the butterfly leg, anchor swimmer Macguire McDuff left five hundredths before Liendo had hit the wall, disqualifying Florida.

Despite having the quickest fly split in history (42.56), Liendo, a senior Canadian, accepted full responsibility for his team’s performance rather than placing the burden on his colleague.

“I think I left a little too quickly. I might have probably swum that a little more sensibly,” Liendo remarked. “I believe that Mac’s early departure was due to his acclimation to my rapid acceleration on the final 25. I don’t believe I was moving more quickly on the final 25. I felt like I was about to die. He was being hard on himself, but that was not his fault.

A pair of elite teams benefited greatly from the three-hundredths of a second cushion that relay swimmers are granted at the beginning of their legs. Jonny Kulow of Arizona State and Liam Bell of Cal, who helped propel the Golden Bears under the previous NCAA record, both had takeover times of -0.01. However, McDuff’s excessively fast changeover was a costly mistake for Florida, as the DQ cost them 34 points.

This meant that going into the last day of the competition, Arizona State would lead by 56.5 points, followed by Cal in second place with 286.5 and Florida in third place with 273. Arizona State had the most scoring opportunities among the three teams on Saturday, which means that both California and Florida have eliminated any chance of a long-shot comeback.

Although head coach Anthony Nesty’s team will not approach the final day with that mindset, they will sincerely lament the potential missed due to this relay error if the Gators end up finishing within 34 points of ASU.

Liendo remarked, “We have another day tomorrow.” “I won’t think about it too much. You can’t help but wonder what may have happened. We’ve performed quite well in those relays and we’re that competitive. Though we still have work to do, it will undoubtedly be a little difficult. We won’t obsess over it or have sleepless nights about it.

A relay exchange that was unduly ambitious cost more than one team than Florida. SEC opponent Auburn was also disqualified, with breaststroker Henry Bethel scoring -0.13, and butterflyer Bradley Dunham scoring -0.04, meaning Georgia, who was in 10th place competing, lost out.

In addition, the -0.03 allowance helped Arizona State, Cal, Tennessee, and Penn State. Kulow from ASU, Bell from Cal, Flynn Crisci from Tennessee, and Mariano Lazzerini and Lachlan Byrne from the Nittany Lions all left as soon as it was permitted.

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