ST. PETERSBURG — At the Total Team Challenge at St. Petersburg's North Shore Pool, the Palm Harbor University swim team pulled off a total team victory Saturday.
The Hurricanes swept the boys, girls and overall team competitions, then completed the sweep by taking the coveted spirit award.
Event organizer and Northeast coach Bill Burrows said it was the first time in the meet's 21-year history that one team won the swimming and the spirit competitions.
"Usually, it works out to win one or the other, but not both together," said PHU coach Lisa Bitting, whose team won the Class 3A classification at the event. "I'd like to think that the spirit and everything that we had helped us win the swimming as well. … A lot of the kids that help us win the spirit award aren't always the kids that are fastest in the pool, so it kind of gives them something to feel like they're a part of that as well."
The Hurricanes won handily with a combined 840 points. Tampa Prep, which earned first among the Class A schools, was second overall at 696 points. Countryside (674 points) took third.
In the girls competition, the Hurricanes placed first in five of 12 events to earn 426 total points, 36 more than second place Tampa Prep. PHU was led by senior Emily Bloxam, who swam legs on the winning 250-yard sprint crescendo relay (2 minutes, 16.97 seconds) as well as the 200 freestyle (1:43.65), 400 freestyle (3:44.22) and 500 distance crescendo (4:48.81) relays that placed second.
The PHU boys topped Countryside by 54 points for first place. PHU (414) got an outstanding performance from David Morgan, who headlined four winning relays. Morgan anchored the 200 breaststroke (2:05.65) and 4x100 individual medley (3:58.77) relays and was a part of the 100 medley (45.96) and 200 medley (1:39.75) relays that set meet records. The Hurricanes boys won six events overall.
The overall swimming title was never in doubt, but each PHU swimming victory seemed to elicited louder cheers.
"At this point in the season, I'm most excited about the spirit award because it helps bond the team together, kind of sets the tone for the camaraderie and just the team feeling of high school athletics," Bitting said. "So, in that sense, it's good to see all the kids kind of gel together and work together."
Osceola took first place in the Class 2A competition, and the visiting spirit award went to Sarasota Cardinal Mooney.