WESLEY CHAPEL — A long-dormant relay meet primarily for North Suncoast swim teams has been revived with what organizers dub the inaugural North Suncoast Relays.
“Hillsborough and Pinellas (counties) do something similar every year and they don’t invite anybody from Pasco County, so I figured let’s do our own,” organizer and Wiregrass Ranch coach Tanner Schmitz said. “This is something I hope catches on and teams from the North Suncoast can start our own tradition.”
Land O’Lakes coach Robin Hilgenberg is among those excited the meet has been revived.
"(Fellow Gators coach Barbara Hayes and I) think it’s going to build team camaraderie among all of the Pasco teams,” Hilgenberg said.
In 2001, Gulf coach Linda Cassidy and Pasco coach Russ Rosenbauer — both since retired with the latter still partially assisting the Pirates — co-organized the relays to replace the long haul for some area teams to St. Petersburg for the Swim Zone Relays.
Two years later, that early-season event was disbanded, in part due to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s decision to reduce the swim season from 15 weeks to 12.
“When we found out that the season was going to be cut way back we had a hard time trying to figure out how we were going to squeeze all our meets in,” Rosenbauer recalled.
Mitchell coaches Scott Hernon and Kelly Erickson think Saturday’s meet at the New Tampa YMCA will be fun-filled and will not put much pressure on their swimmers.
“It helps build camaraderie among the kids. I think a relay meet like this bonds the kids together,” Erickson said.
It also seems to have built a bit of camaraderie among area coaches .
“(Schmitz’s) enthusiasm for swimming is contagious,” Erickson said. “It’s phenomenal the excitement he has for swimming.”
Added Hilgenberg: “I’m excited. We need new young blood that’s enthusiastic. Plus, he seems very organized.”
North Suncoast Relays
When/where: 9 a.m. Saturday, New Tampa YMCA
Teams: Academy at the Lakes, Central, Crystal River, Fivay, Land O’Lakes, Mitchell, Pasco, River Ridge, Wesley Chapel, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills