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Jan. 17, 2013

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January 17, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina swimming and diving teams return to action on Friday as they host Florida State and Arkansas in their first home meet of 2013 at the Carolina Natatorium.

The swimming portion of the meet is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., with diving set to get underway at 3 p.m. The Carolina women, who enter the weekend at 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the SEC, will compete against both Arkansas and Florida State. The Gamecock men, who are 3-3 on the season and 1-1 in the SEC, will only face the Seminoles since Arkansas does not have a men’s program.

The Gamecocks enter the matchup with momentum on their side after sweeping Duke on the road last week in their first meet of 2013. South Carolina finished first in 18 of the 32 events against the Blue Devils and swept the top three places in five events.

“I was happy with where we were,” South Carolina head coach McGee Moody said. “We had some really good performances on the men’s side by Brooks Ross and Matt Navata. Across the board, I would probably give us a B for the meet. We weren’t great but we weren’t bad either. I think that puts us in a pretty good spot given the amount of training we had come off of over break. On the women’s side, I think it might have been the best meet they had all year. They raced hard and stepped up in events they needed to win. We have to carry this momentum over.”

Friday’s meet will be one of the toughest for the Gamecocks this season, as all three teams they will face are ranked in the CSCAA Top 25. The Seminole men’s and women’s teams are ranked 13th and 18th, respectively, while the Arkansas women’s team is No. 25. Moody said this week’s meet has been more difficult to prepare for because of the different strengths of each team.

“As far as preparation goes, this is one of the harder ones for the coaching staff in terms of where to put certain people,” Moody said. “Florida State’s men’s team is a sprint-based program. They have a lot of speed in the 50 and the 100 and the 100’s in the strokes. If you get them up above that, they are not really as strong as we are, so it matches up pretty evenly. It’s really going to be an outstanding meet.

“Florida State’s women are really strong in the middle distance and the stroke group. Arkansas’s women are completely different. They are more of a distance freestyle based program with a couple of good sprinters. It’s been a challenge to prepare for this. However, I think our guys and girls are ready to race and are pretty fired up about it.”

On the men’s side, Florida State enters the weekend with a 5-2 overall record and a 1-1 mark in the ACC. The Seminoles have posted some of the nation’s fastest times so far this season led by junior sprinter Paul Murray, who has the top time in the 50 freestyle (19.35) and the fourth-fastest time in the 100 freestyle (42.78). Teammate Mark Weber holds the sixth fastest time in the 50 freestyle (19.59), while Trice Bailey (14th – 50 freestyle), Josh Friedel (13th – 200 backstroke) and Connor Knight (12th – 100 butterfly, 11th – 200 butterfly) have also turned in some of the top times in the country.

The Florida State women’s team has put together a 10-0 record this season, including a win over No. 9 Florida. This weekend’s meet is the first of the new year for Florida State. The team finished first in the Georgia Tech Invitational in December to wrap up its fall schedule. Junior sprinter Tiffany Oliver, the school record holder in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events, has led the way this season with some of the nation’s fastest times. Oliver currently ranks fifth in the 50 freestyle (22.30) and sixth in the 100 freestyle (48.57). Sophomore Kaitlyn Dressel also ranks 12th in the 100 freestyle (48.79).

The Razorbacks have turned in a 5-1 record this season, including a 2-1 mark in the SEC. Arkansas is coming off an impressive win over No. 12 Penn State. The Razorbacks have several swimmers that have led the way, including All-American Chelsea Franklin. Franklin is one of the top distance swimmers in the country after earning her second straight All-America honor in the 1,650 freestyle last season. Arkansas has also posted some of the fastest times in the country. Sophomore Nikki Daniels ranks 12th in the 100 breaststroke (1:00.12) and 15th in the 200 breaststroke (2:10.73), while sophomore Lauren Jordan ranks 13th in the 1,650 freestyle (16:15.03).

On the boards, the Razorbacks have one of the best in the country in junior Kesha Naylor. Naylor, who entered the season as the school record holder in 10 of the 15 diving categories, currently ranks third in the SEC on the three-meter (355.75) and eighth on the one-meter (310.90).

Admission is free to all of South Carolina’s home swimming and diving meets. Live results for Saturday’s meet will be available here.