Natalie Hinds, Katie Ledecky win gold on opening night of swimming national championships

Nick Yuska
Special to Gator Sports

Florida Gators swimmers had a promising start to this week's Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine, Calif., winning two golds as well as tallying eight top-10 finishes on the opening night.

Natalie Hinds set a personal-best in the 100-meter freestyle at 53.53 after finishing first in the prelims at 54.12.

“I just kind of tried to stay in my own lane," Hinds told USA Swimming. "It’s been a long season and I was kind of getting a little tired mentally – when I get tired I kind of (start) looking around at other folks and focus on other people, so I just promised myself I was going to focus on my own race.”

Katie Ledecky continued her career dominance in the 800-meter freestyle, finishing over 19 seconds ahead of the rest of the field at 8:12.03. The Gators' volunteer coach now has the top-28 times all-time in the women's 800-meter freestyle.

“I just wanted to put together a good race and go out for it, and I had no expectations going into that so I’m pretty satisfied," Ledecky said.

Mason Laur and Kevin Vargas, both competing in the 200-meter fly A final, finished sixth and eighth, with Laur at 1:57.62 and Vargas touching the wall in 1:58.38.

It was similar results in the women's 800 meters, with Elise Bauer finishing sixth at 8:37.11 and Tylor Mathieu placing eighth with an 8:41.68, giving UF three of the top eight finishes in the women's 800-meter free.

In the men's 100-meter final, Kieran Smith finished in sixth with a time of 48.91. Adam Chaney, who swam in the B final, finished 14th overall at 49.46.

Breaking down the Gators' results

Women's 200m fly: After finishing 12th and 13th in the morning prelims, Amanda Ray and Allie Piccirillo both advanced to the B final, where the duo would finish sixth and eighth in the B final Tuesday night.

Men's 200m fly: Mason Laur posted a time of 1:57.90 during the prelim to place seventh, while Kevin Vargas' time of 1:58.11 put him in eighth as the Gator duo qualified for the A final.

Women's 100m free: Natalie Hinds claimed the top overall seed, finishing first with a 54.12 in the morning session to advance to the final. Katie Mack finished 35th at 56.13 while Talia Bates claimed 39th at 56.26.

Men's 100m free: Kieran Smith and Adam Chaney both advanced during the preliminary session, with Smith advancing to the A final and Chaney in the B final. Julian Smith finished in 32nd at 49.90.

Women's 800m free: Anna Auld finished 19th with a time of 8:47.56, placing just one spot ahead of Gator teammate Leah DeGeorge who came in 20th at 8:47.93 during the distance session in the afternoon.

Men's 1,500m free: Brennan Gravley touched the wall in 15:29.91 to finish 10th, edging out Tyler Watson, who placed 11th with a time of 15:31.25. Bobby Finke, who set the American record in the event last month at the FINA World Championships, was scratched from the event.