Gators coach Gregg Troy celebrates the UF men's SEC title (Janna Schulze/SwimSwam.com).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators swimming coach Gregg Troy knows success. Actually, Troy and success are rarely apart.
The 62-year-old Troy, a member of the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has won championships on the high school, college and international levels. He served as the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team coach last summer in London and led the Gators women’s team to the 2010 national title.
But until Saturday at Texas A&M, Troy had never experienced the thrill of leading the Florida men to a Southeastern Conference championship. That trophy had gone to Auburn for 16 consecutive years, a streak that started even before Troy took over the Florida men’s program in 1999.
The Gators had been runner-up over and over – 11 consecutive years. The streak was way past old for Troy and his swimmers. Troy noticed a laser-like focus in the men from the start of the season.
“They started out with a purpose,’’ he said Monday. “We were in a dynamic where there was a real concern for one another.”
As the Gators racked up the points at the SEC Championships last weekend, a rival coach stopped Troy and pointed out how determined the Gators appeared. Troy agreed, a fact he had seen for months.
When the meet was over Saturday night, Troy and his assistants took a dip in the pool with the rest of the team. The Gators had done it, winning their first SEC title in 20 years and finally snapping Auburn’s historic streak. The Tigers’ streak of 16 consecutive conference titles was third in league history, trailing only an 18-year streak for the Florida volleyball team and 17-year streak by the Arkansas men’s cross-country program.
“A good weekend for the Gators in College Station,’’ Troy said. “Our athletes did a tremendous job. Every time we had a little disappointment where maybe a guy would miss the final in the morning and be in the consolation final, we had somebody step up in the next heat we didn’t expect.”
The Gators performed well from top to bottom. Marcin Cieslak won conference titles in the 100 and 200 fly, freshman Pawel Werner won the 200 free title and Matt Elliott won the 200 breast. Meanwhile, the 800-free relay team of Cieslak, Werner, Sebastien Rousseau and Eduardo Solache-Gomez also captured a league title.
A deeper roster and deeper commitment proved too much for the rest of the field as the Gators scored 212 more points than runner-up Auburn and nearly 400 points more than third-place Georgia.
“Three years ago the NCAA meet wasn’t as fast as what this year’s conference meet was in a lot of events,’’ Troy said. “A true team performance. I think it bodes well for the future. Looking ahead to the NCAA meet, we know what to do. We handled the competition.
“There was a real purpose to what they were doing.”
The Gators will take the same approach to the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis in late March. If Troy ends up taking another dip in the pool, you know things went well for the Gators.