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2020 MEN’S NCAA COACH OF THE YEAR: ANTHONY NESTY, FLORIDA

It can be tough to succeed a long-established coach, even when the new head coach has been part of the program just as long. Florida’s Anthony Nesty took over a program that saw a lot of transition between the the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons: longtime head coach Gregg Troy retired, Caeleb Dressel graduated, and the Gators split their hitherto-combined-gender program, with Nesty taking the reins of the men’s team.

There didn’t seem to be too much of a bump, though, as the Gator men still finished 6th at the 2019 NCAAs. They were soon thereafter hit with a couple high-profile transfers, but that didn’t seem to slow them down, either, as the Florida men exploded at the 2020 SEC Championships, easily taking the conference title, and even more impressively, setting a pair of U.S. Open Records in the process.

The first night was a harbinger of things to come, as the Gator men set a SEC Meet Record in the 800 free relay with a 6:09.91, and sophomore Kieran Smith smashed the SEC record in the 200 free (and moved to #4 all-time) with a 1:30.11. The next night Smith moved from history to legend, becoming the first man ever to go 4:06 in the 500 freestyle. In between that swim and his already-established long course prowess, Smith quickly became a front-runner to make the 2020 Olympic Team, at least for the month between SECs and the cancellation of Trials due to Covid-19.

But Smith wasn’t the only Gator swimmer to hit a U.S. Open Record. Fellow sophomore Bobby Finke followed up Smith’s show with one of his own, swimming the fastest mile in history on the final day of SECs. In between Dressel, Smith, and Finke, the Gator men now own the all-time records in the 50, 100, 500, and 1650 yard freestyle events, and it’d be no surprise if Smith and Finke were to clip the 200 and 1000 free records, respectively, at some point in the next year or two.

That fast swimming continued even after competition resumed this fall, as Smith, Finke, and several other Florida men rank at or near the top of USA long course ranks for the 2020 calendar year, providing evidence that the Gator long course tradition shows no sign of slowing down under Nesty (an Olympic gold medalist himself), and the Florida men should continue to vie for national championships and be well-represented on future international teams.

swimswam.com