ORLANDO — Plant coach Gil Gonzalez never bemoaned his team’s jump to Class 3A two years ago. Sure, the Panthers faced faster swimmers and deeper teams, but he knew the competition would only benefit the program.
The payoff came in Thursday’s state meet at the YMCA Aquatic Center.
Plant’s girls finished fourth overall with 111 points, the highest among Hillsborough County teams. It also marked a significant improvement for the Panthers, who placed 16th in the team standings at last year’s meet.
“There were some things we could have done better, but overall it was good,” Gonzalez said. “Very, very good.”
The night started off with Plant’s girls 200 medley relay of Carter Flynn, Alexandria Donahue, Emily Clifford and Tara McGowan taking fourth in 1:49.10.
In the 100 breast, Donahue was fifth in 1:05.98 and Clifford eighth in 1:06.95.
Wharton’s Danielle Albright took fourth in the 200 free in 1:52.29. It was quantum leap for Albright, who was ninth in the event last year.
“I was shooting for third, but I’m happy to move up to fourth,” Albright said. “I knew it was going to be close. In the last 25 yards, I just kept telling myself I had to get to the wall. I think fourth says a lot because this is such a fast meet.”
Albright also finished seventh in the 100 free (52.78).
Newsome’s 200 medley relay team of Madeline Hess, Mollie Billingsley, Merrill Wilson and Sarah Neely took eighth in 1:51.33.
Hess made it to the finals in the 100 free but was disqualified for a false start.
On the boys side, the Panthers scored 42 points to place 16th overall.
Plant’s 400 free relay of Kyle Kimura, Tyler Heath, GiaKomo Rosso and Jeremy Parker placed seventh in 3:14.58.
Palm Harbor University’s boys team, which won the state team title in 2008, took first overall again with 235 points to become the first bay area program to win multiple team titles since St. Petersburg won six from 1923-45.