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The state’s Class 3A boys swim programs looked at Palm Harbor University and engaged in some wishful thinking.
Maybe the Hurricanes, winners of two of the past four state titles, would not be able to cope with the loss of David Morgan, Zach Perrotti and Jason Williams, all of whom graduated. Maybe their departure would thin PHU’s depth enough to where other teams could compete.
Maybe the rest of the state should have known better.
Adjustments are what the Hurricanes do best in their emerging dynasty. PHU, despite having many new swimmers in the lineup, are poised to win another state title. The Hurricanes, who won conference, district and region team titles, are the front-runners based on scoring from seed selections going into Friday’s state meet at the Orlando YMCA. PHU is projected to score 261 points, eight more than its closest competitor, Boca Raton.
“We were hoping to make a run this year, but we knew it would be difficult after losing three really good kids,” Hurricanes coach Lisa Bitting said. “We’ve just had a lot of kids come through more than we could have expected.”
PHU’s familiar domination shows in the faces of new swimmers like Tristan Sanders, who sat last year after transferring from East Lake. Sanders is seeded first in the 100 backstroke. Then there is the holdover, Ryan McRae, a senior who has committed to Yale. He has provided leadership and is seeded first in the 100 and 200 back.
“Ryan really provides the continuity that we need,” Bitting said.
But the key to winning another state title is how well the Hurricanes do in relay events. They are in position to pick up major points with No. 1 seeds in the 200 medley and 400 free relays and a No. 2 seed in the 200 free relay.
“There is not a lot of room for error to win it all,” Bitting said. “Our relays have to maintain their top seeds, which is difficult to do, and we need some swimmers seeded lower to move up a few spots. It’s something that can be done.”
Medal haul: While PHU has the best chance of any team to win a title, East Lake likely will be the one to bring home the most individual awards.
Eagles sophomore Sydney Pickrem is seeded first in the 200 individual medley and 100 back, and is trying to win her second straight title in the 200 IM. Teammate Michelle Turek is seeded second in the 200 free. On the boys side, East Lake’s Nazareno Boscaino is seeded first in the 500 free.
Other county swimmers with chances at state titles based on top seeds in their events include Countryside’s Summer Finke (500 free) and Palm Harbor University’s Kendall McIntosh (50 free).
Ultimate comeback: Shorecrest’s Jack Stein thought his chances of defending his Class A state diving title ended nearly a year ago when he broke his right ankle and foot in 11 places during warmups.
But Stein has rebounded and been dominant during the postseason in his signature event. He is seeded second going into Saturday’s meet and will need to uncork some monster dives to win again.
State swimming and diving
Where: Central Florida YMCA Aquatic Center, Orlando
When: Thursday (Class 2A), Friday (3A) and Saturday (A)
Admission: $9 per session