TAMPA — For the Plant girls swim team, Saturday's Class 2A, District 8 meet was old hat. The Panthers girls had dominated this meet for so many years that longtime Plant coach Gil Gonzalez couldn't remember for sure the last time they didn't win the district title.
"Five or six years," he said. "I have to look it up."
The Plant boys' path to districts wasn't was easy, but the Panthers relied on depth to pull out their first district crown in three years, giving Plant a boys-girls district sweep.
"They were hungry," Gonzalez said of the Plant boys, who beat second-place Hillsborough 483-413. "I'm very proud of them. They were the ones who showed all the enthusiasm and spirit on deck because they had more to earn than the girls, who were business as usual."
The win gives Plant a chance to repeat as region champs and sets up an interesting rematch with county power Newsome at Saturday's regional meet at Northshore Pool in St. Petersburg.
The Plant girls, who defeated second-place Hillsborough 641-352, dominated the pool. Senior Meg Anderson won the 50-yard freestyle and 100 free, Hillary Hahmann won the 200 free and the 500 free, and the 200 and 400 free relays of Anderson, Hillary Hahmann, Haley Hahmann and Rebecca Werdine both finished first. The Panthers also had a top-four sweep in the 200 free.
On the boys side, Hillsborough's David DeSena won the 100 fly and the 500 free, while King's Cody Wei placed first in the 200 IM and the 100 back, the latter an event he has been competing in only since last week.
"I looked at the times last year and they were pretty competitive in the 100 back," Wei said. "In the 100 fly they were too close so the 100 back gives me more of a break."
But the story was the Plant boys, who were rewarded by their depth in the finals.
"We had a lot of new swimmers," Gonzalez said. "A couple of them were experienced swimmers, but we have five or six boys who were starting from scratch, who over the course of these 18, 20 weeks have really improved. Depth is key at any championship meet."