TRINITY — State championships have been hard to come by for North Suncoast swimmers and divers.
In 2008, Sunlake’s Brad Morrison snapped a seven-year drought after placing first in the 100 yard backstroke at the Class A state finals.
Before Morrison, Hudson’s Amanda Paulo was the last area swimmer to take gold, also in the 100 back (2001).
Mitchell’s Devin McCaffrey wants to reverse that trend.
Last year as a freshman making his first appearance at the state finals (Class 2A), McCaffrey nearly brought home two titles, finishing second in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 breaststroke — his time of 1:00.28 in the 100 breast was only two-tenths off the winning pace.
Now a sophomore, McCaffrey is again a strong contender in both events and begins his quest for gold Oct. 28 at the district meet, the opening leg of the postseason.
“I definitely think that Devin could win a state title,” Mitchell coach MaryJo Artura said. “Anything can happen and I want to be modest about it, but I think he has a great chance of placing first in his events.”
Besides the 100 fly and 100 breast, McCaffrey headlines Mitchell’s 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams that should also be a factor at state.
“The relays are the ones that me and my team feel like we’re going to succeed the most in,” McCaffrey said.
So what makes McCaffrey such a threat in the pool? His coach says it starts with body command. McCaffrey glides naturally through the water, in part, because he can control all of his movements.
That, and his attention to details other swimmers might gloss over.
“What he does that I think a lot of swimmers just don’t understand the importance of is he is very good with his starts and his turns,” Artura said. “If you have a strong start and turn, that’s where you cut off time. He’s very much aware of that.”
To have a chance of winning a state title in the individual events, McCaffrey will have to swim personal bests. The sophomore has gone as low as 51.2 in the 100 fly and 1:00.2 in the 100 breast. But he estimates he’ll have to swim 49 seconds in the fly and 59.5 in the breast.
McCaffrey’s not deterred, though. He figures the competition combined with what’s at stake will give him the adrenaline boost he needs to approach those times.
Plus, last year’s experience at state gave him valuable insight on how to approach the meet.
“Now, I know the strategy is to go faster in the morning (prelims),” he said. “Last year, I hardly made it to the final. I just squeezed in the seventh and eighth spot. In the finals, I was on the outside so I couldn’t really see my position relative to the leaders.”
With a better prelim time, McCaffrey can swim from one of the middle lanes occupied by the fastest swimmers.
There, he can chase the leaders.
And in the process, chase North Suncoast history.
Admission: $5 per session
Format: Meets determine region berths, with 24 per event (district winners plus next overall best times). In diving, the top four in each district advance (minimum score of 280).
Teams: Belleview, Central, Citrus, Dunnellon, Eastside, Gainesville, Hernando, Lake Weir, Leesburg, Nature Coast, North Marion, Palatka, Springstead, Vanguard, West Port
When: Oct. 29, 9 a.m. (swimming), 12:30 p.m. (diving)
Where: O’Connell Center, Gainesville
Keep an eye on: Central senior Emily Withington was fifth in the 200 IM and fourth in the 100 back a year ago. Springstead freshman Monica Surrena topped Withington in the 200 IM in the regular season. Central’s Shelby Brown will be in the running for multiple race wins as well. For the boys, Central’s Derek Buel placed third in the 500 free last season. Look for Springstead’s Luke May at the top of the standings as well.
Teams: Anclote, Eustis, Fivay, Gulf, Hudson, Land O’Lakes, Lecanto, Mitchell, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Sunlake, Tavares, Wesley Chapel, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills
When: Oct. 28, 9 a.m. (swimming); Oct. 27, 3 p.m. (diving)
Where: New Tampa YMCA (swimming); New Port Richey Aquatic Center (diving)
Keep an eye on: Land O’Lakes swept both the boys and girls competitions a year ago. Expect the Gators to be favored again, but they’ll be challenged by Mitchell, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch and Gulf. The list of potential multiple state qualifiers from this district — McCaffrey (Mitchell), Mazie Siddens (Mitchell), Joseph Geschke (Ridgewood), Hunter Swartsel (Gulf), Rebecca Pindral (Wiregrass Ranch), Patrick Gray (LOL), Alex Pierovich (LOL) — is quite large.
Teams: Bishop McLaughlin, Crystal River, Mount Dora, P.K. Yonge, Pasco, St. Francis, St. John Lutheran, Trinity Catholic, Umatilla, Villages, Weeki Wachee
When: Monday, 9 a.m. (swimming), 2 p.m. (diving)
Where: O’Connell Center, Gainesville
Keep an eye on: Crystal River edged Villages to win both the boys and girls competition last season. Taylor Bobo and Norah Taylor will keep Pasco in the running on the girls side; Peter Mercadante and Tim Dombrowski will give the Pirates boys a fighting chance. Bishop McLaughlin sisters Yvonne and Camille Baumrucker both finished in the top eight at districts in the 100 breast a year ago. Camille, a sophomore, was also seventh in the 50 free.
Teams: Academy at the Lakes, Bayshore Christian, Berkeley Prep, Calvary Christian, Clearwater Central Catholic, Steinbrenner, Lennard, Middleton, Robinson, Seffner Christian, Strawberry Crest, Tampa Catholic, Tampa Prep
When: Oct. 28, 9 a.m. (swimming); Oct. 27, 11 a.m. (diving)
Where: Tampa Prep
Keep an eye on: Berkeley Prep and Tampa Prep battled neck and neck for first and second place last season. Watch for more of the same in 2010 with everyone else struggling to keep pace.