On your mark. Get set. Go. The swimming season is upon us, and several North Suncoast athletes can expect to trim their times enough to make it to state by season’s end.
Mitchell muscle: What a 2009 season for the Mustangs, capped by a second-place region finish in Gainesville. Mitchell will follow the lead of the talented trio of sophomore Devin McCaffrey, senior Gavin Hunt and junior Ian Ondrejka. The Mustangs are led by first-year coach Mary Jo Artura, who comes over from Nature Coast after one season with the Sharks. The talented McCaffrey burst onto the local scene, grabbing second-place medals at state in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 breaststroke.
Gators rebuilding: Land O’Lakes coach Barbara Hayes insists the Gators are in rebuilding mode this season after losing several key swimmers to graduation. So it will be up to guys such as sophomores James Adams and Grant Pawlak, and seniors Patrick Gray, Austen Johannessen and Connor Sequiera to score big points. Of course, deep rosters are the key to winning meets and Land O’Lakes routinely has the numbers — and the talent — to battle for North Suncoast supremacy.
Don’t count out Buccaneers: This is another group of capable boys, who swim under the direction of guru Casey Caflin. The Buccaneers have another solid group, led by standout Hunter Swartzel. Expect him to swim in the speed events. He took 14th at state last year in the 100 free and 19th in the 100 back.
Cobras crushed? Not only has Julie Heise stepped back to take an assistant role, but the team was depleted of roster numbers thanks to the opening of Fivay. Promoted to head coach is Ed Wilke and newly hired ex-University of Michigan swimmer Ken Wiebeck.
Swimmers to watch
Devin McCaffrey, So., Mitchell: Second at state in the 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke
Joe Geschke, Sr., Ridgewood: 12th at state in 200 free, 13th in 500 free
Hunter Swartsel, Jr., Gulf: 14th at state in 100 free, 19th in 100 back
Gavin Hunt, Sr., Mitchell: 21st at state in 50 free; key member of two relays
Ian Ondrejka, Jr., Mitchell: 24th at state in 100 breast; key member two relays
Patrick Gray, Sr., Land O’Lakes: Fifth at regionals in 200 individual medley, ninth in 100 back
Tyler Waide, Sr., Gulf: Seventh at regionals in 500 free, 12th in 200 individual medley
Zac Serota, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Seventh at regionals in 200 free, 19th in 100 breast
Gators look strong: Coach Robin Hillgenberg helped the girls to their first Sunshine Athletic Conference and district titles since 2006. The Gators should be among the county’s elite despite losing standouts Karley Nelson and Lauren Lynch. Land O’Lakes again will be led by junior Alex Pierovich, who suffered a broken arm in February. She will be joined by a group of promising freshmen expected to compete for big points.
Zephyrhills in the mix: Longtime coach Shannon Mathews stepped down but will continue to volunteer with the team. Even more exciting is the fact Zephyrhills has a pool to swim in. Last year the Hercules Aquatic Center closed after the season but has since reopened. Zephyrhills is led by seniors Lindsay Gorgen and Nicolette Clark.
Sunlake gaining steam: The Seahawks have an enthusiastic coach in Gienna Chamberlain, and her coaching style of running up and down the pool deck alongside her swimmers is inspiring. It should help the Seahawks, who appear to be in the mix with standouts such as juniors Kaylin Sylvester and Megan Huynh, and sophomore Nicole Harder. The Seahawks enjoyed a breakthrough last season in a tough region.
A pair of individuals: It’s worth keeping an eye on reigning North Suncoast Swimmer of the Year Rebecca Pindral and Mitchell standout Mazie Siddens. Pindral almost missed the postseason in 2009, suffering a broken nose after being guided while blindfolded into a wall during a class project. She overcame breathing issues and finished tops among North Suncoast girls. Siddens qualified for a pair of events at state and is expected to give the Mustangs another huge boost.
Swimmers to watch
Rebecca Pindral, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Eighth at state in 100 breast; third in 100 breast, seventh in 200 individual medley at region
Alex Pierovich, Jr., Land O’Lakes: 11th at state in 200 individual medley, 16th in 100 breast
Mazie Siddens, Jr., Mitchell: 18th at state in 100 fly; 24th in 200 individual medley
Lindsay Gorgen, Sr., Zephyrhills: 21st at state in 100 free, 24th in 100 back
Nicolette Clark, Sr., Zephyrhills: 20th at state in 200 free
Kaylin Sylvester, Sr., Sunlake: Fifth in 100 back at regionals, 16th in 200 free
Mary Alice McGeehan, Sr., Central: Sixth at regionals in 100 fly, 13th in 50 free
Megan Huynh, Sr., Sunlake: Ninth at regionals in 50 free, ninth in 100 free
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.