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The competitors in Saturday’s Pinellas County Athletic Conference swimming and diving championships will take a flying leap into a talent pool that once again is likely to produce record-setting results, and the usual predictability:
Palm Harbor University, meet Countryside.
Countryside, meet Palm Harbor University.
The best public school swimming programs will square off for the first time this season, and a 1-2 finish is most likely, with the Hurricanes looking to extend their streak of boys team titles to 10, and the girls looking for a fourth straight championship.
But as always, the Cougars will be chasing.
“I know a lot of my swimmers are shooting for some really good relays and some really good times,” said Countryside coach Ian O’Neil. “It’s going to be tough looking at what they’ve got in there. They do have a lot of numbers. But Countryside is going to give them a run for their money.”
The Cougars’ hopes on the boys side are bolstered by the graduation of PHU star and county swimmer of the year Wes Stearns, and the addition to the Countryside roster of nationally ranked Matt Ellis.
Ellis, a transfer from Austin Westlake, was fifth in the 100-yard butterfly at the Texas state championships last spring, and his time of 49.30 seconds would have won that event at last year’s PCAC meet by nearly three seconds. He also swam on two state-qualifying relays.
Ellis was also on the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championship Team that recently competed in Hawaii.
“He might be our shining star,” said O’Neil.
While PHU coach Lisa Bitting graduated a wealth of talent, she is extremely high on her freshman class. She thinks the new influx of talent is enough to keep both Hurricane teams on top for the foreseeable future.
On the girls side, Tarpon Springs will try to become the first team since Seminole in 2005 to break the PHU-Countryside hold on the top two spots. The Spongers are led by Kelsey Buckley, Kelly Verheyleweghen and Melissa Damaske. The trio tuned up for the PCAC by combining for five individual wins Tuesday in a victory over Largo.
PCAC swimming and diving championships
Swimming: Saturday at the Southwest Rec Center, preliminaries 8 a.m., finals at 5 p.m.; Diving: Friday at Northeast, noon
2009: PHU 394, Countryside 326
2008: PHU 503, Countryside 326
2007: PHU 456, Countryside 326
2006: PHU 484, Countryside 326
2005: PHU 484, Countryside 326
2004: PHU 467, Countryside 326
2003: PHU, Countryside (rain shortened)
2002: PHU 367, Countryside 326
2001: PHU 339, Countryside 326
2000: Northeast, Seminole
2009: PHU 389, Countryside 341
2008: PHU 383.5, Countryside 356
2007: PHU 437, Countryside 414
2006: Countryside 451, PHU 421
2005: PHU 365.5, Seminole 321.5
2004: Seminole 403, PHU 393
2003: Seminole 410, PHU 379
2002: PHU 436, Seminole 355
2001: PHU 408, Seminole 368
2000: PHU, East Lake