PALM HARBOR — Plant coach Gil Gonzales knew last season’s move from Class 2A to 3A would be beneficial . The Panthers now face tough competition from Pinellas County, which helps push them to faster times.
The only drawback was it all but eliminated the possibility of winning team titles in the postseason. As Plant has found out the past two seasons, frontrunner status is reserved for Palm Harbor University.
The Hurricanes won their 10th straight boys district title with 440 points, 103.5 ahead of Countryside. PHU’s girls won their fourth district title, outscoring the Panthers 467-337.
“Being in 3A has been good for the team,” Gonzales said. “It’s not good, though, for scoring points and winning championships. It’s such a fast district, almost like a mini-state meet. We knew we were most likely contending for second place.”
Plant’s Emily Clifford won the 100 fly in one minute, 1.30 seconds. She was not only the Panthers’ lone champion, but the only boy or girl from Hillsborough County to win an individual event.
In the girls meet, Clearwater’s Megan Rossi was the only swimmer to win multiple events, taking first in the 200 free (1:54.94) and 500 free (5:00.78).
On the boys side, three swimmers won two events. Clearwater’s Nick Alexiou took first in the 200 free (1:40.83) and 500 free (4:36.14), Countryside’s Matt Ellis was the champion in the 50 free (21.54) and 100 fly (51.88), and Palm Harbor University’s Ryan McRae won the 100 free (47.94) and 100 back (52.61).
Gonzales said he was most pleased with his boys’ 400 free relay team of GiaKomo Rosso, Joel Douglas Rodgers, Jeremy Parker and Kyle Kimura, who teamed to finish second in 3:25.21. Their time was one second off the school record.
“We’re young, but we had some good results, especially with the relay,” Gonzales said.