ORLANDO — Last year, Tarpon Springs' Kelsey Buckley was a favorite for a top-three finish at state in her two individual races, only to see her hopes capsized by waves of stress and self-doubt.
Buckley never felt satisfied with her performance. On Thursday, she returned to the state meet with her confidence inflated and her chances buoyed by a strong showing at districts and regions.
In the 200 individual medley, Buckley finished second with an All-America consideration time of 2 minutes, 5.65 seconds.
"I was nervous and excited because I had worked so hard to get to this point," Buckley said.
The transitions between strokes can be tricky in the 200 IM. Buckley fell behind early and tried to make up ground in the final two strokes of the event, the breaststroke and freestyle.
"I'm not as strong in the first half of the race and had some making up to do," she said. "But I'm pleased with what I was able to do."
Buckley wasn't finished. In the 100 free, she placed third in 51.86.
"I was just as anxious in that one as the 200 IM," Buckley said. "I knew I was going die at the end of the 100 free and just had to hold on. I'm happy because I had personal-best times in both races."
The only other county girl with a top-three finish was Osceola's Mary Boucher, who took bronze in the 500 free (5:03.35).
"I never got to the finals before, so it was great to be in the top three," Boucher said. "It wasn't my personal best, though. I was hoping to break five minutes."
The Spongers' Kelly Verheyleweghen was sixth in the 100 fly (58.39) and the Warriors' Julia George was eighth in diving (376.65).
On the boys side, Osceola's Matt Tomlin was the only county swimmer to place, finishing third in the 100 breast (1:00.76).