ORLANDO — From her last kick toward the wall Saturday night, toward the possibility of a state title in the 100-yard backstroke, St. Petersburg’s Jessica Piper called on the last ounce of everything that has driven her the past three years.
The junior was seeded first going into the meet, but she trailed in the finals through the first 50 yards. Whatever Piper called on was still there.
She went under for that last turn nearly even with Sarasota Riverview’s Ashlee Linn. Piper surged ahead by the final lap and kept the lead to win in 55.81 seconds.
“The 100 back is my best stroke, and I thought I had a chance to win,” Piper said. “The last part of the race was the toughest. But I knew I couldn’t give up. I just had to keep going to win.”
Piper also finished as the runnerup in the 200 individual medley in 2:02.81. Her times in both individual races were personal bests.
Joining Piper as the only other county girls swimmer to win was Seminole’s Hannah Roper, who took first in the 100 breast in 1:05.60.
“This feels great because there was so much work that went into winning this one,” Roper said. “It ended up all paying off.”
Roper entered the 3A meet as the top seed in the event, but finished third in the preliminaries.
“I had some doubt going into the finals,” Roper said. “It was very nerve-racking because there were so many fast swimmers.
“I just had to stay determined at the end because the finish is where you can win or lose it.”
Roper made quite a leap in the 100 breast, an event in which she failed to make it to state last season. She also finished sixth in the 200 IM (2:08.12).