STUART — Sophomore Chloe Grimme and four other underclassmen from Sunlake jumped into the spotlight of the Class 3A state swim meet Saturday night, then they grabbed several shiny medals, including several painted gold.
Grimme led the way pretty much from start to finish, bringing Sunlake’s 200 medley relay flying into third place with a blazing anchor leg and a time of one minute, 48.13 seconds.
Grimme then dived into the 50 free and shot to the lead, winning in 23.11. A few minutes later, after smiling for the cameras with her gold medal, she dived in for the 100 free and took home silver in 51.18.
The crown jewel of the night, however, was arguably the 200 free relay, where Grimme swam a blazing 22.60 anchor-leg split, surging past the rest of the field, for victory in 1:36.88.
Grimme’s relay mates — including a combination of sophomores Tori Eurell and Audrey Ballash and juniors Elise Ballash and Hanna Barton — were more than happy to heap praise on Grimme.
"(Grimme) has been our superstar all season and tonight she was again," Barton said. "We’ve been working hard and she gives us that extra push."
Grimme, who finished second last year in the 50 free, said she felt a lot of stress before the meet, but once she got in the water she just, "gave it everything I had and it felt okay. I think I’ve gotten a lot better mentally."
THREE FOR HEUBERGER
Helena Heuberger was admittedly surprised last year after surging to a state title in the 100 backstroke following a relatively so-so performance in the prelims that morning.
Not this time.
The Clearwater senior dominated Saturday morning’s prelims, then dropped the hammer in the evening finals, winning her third straight state title in her signature event, the 100 back, in her fastest time, 55.86.
"I was intense about this from the moment last year ended," said Heuberger, who also captured a sixth-place finish in the 100 freestyle. "If I wouldn’t have won my senior year I would have died. I just had to win this one."
Heuberger, however, was not the only all-star Tornado. Junior teammate Grace Molinaro also shined in the 100 butterfly, placing second in 56.25.
Heuberger and Molinaro then combined with Olivia Donovan and Emily Sullivan to finish fifth in the 200 medley relay (1:49.36).
Osceola senior Ricardo Martinez was touched out at the wall last year to finish second by .30 seconds in the 200 individual medley.
On Saturday, he said he wanted to leave, "no doubt," which is exactly what he did, winning the 200 IM in 1:49.51, more than a full second ahead of the runnerup.
"Last year’s finish really motivated me," Martinez said. "It made me work extra hard for this."
Martinez came back to finish third in the 100 backstroke in 51.37, then helped teammates Tyre Hill, Jay McArthur and Joseph Gonzalez to a seventh-place finish in the 400 free relay (3:14.58).
PINELLAS DIVES AHEAD
Female divers from Pinellas County made the strongest overall Tampa Bay showing at state.
Osceola freshman Carina Lumia led the way with a runnerup finish with 440.15 points.
Northeast senior Alexandra Boyd was fourth with 381.65, followed by Dixie Hollins sophomore McKenna O’Reilly in eighth (354.70), Osceola junior Kaylyn Goehl in 10th (347.50) and Seminole freshman Kenda Laplante in 13th (342.30).
NEAR MISS FOR GRAY
Northeast senior Colton Gray wasn’t totally upset with his second-place finish in the 100 free in 46.36, but he was thinking what might have been if not for a terrible flu bug he had to fight off about a month ago.
"It was pretty bad and it really affected my training," Gray said. "I really believe I could have won if had not gotten sick. But I gave it everything I had and I feel good about that."
• East Lake’s Chase Geheb was third in the 100 breaststroke (57.30).
• Seminole senior Noa Heron placed fourth in the 200 free (1:52.14), and in the 500 free (4:56.80) and helped teammates Sydney Sheppard, Hannah Ptacek and Jodan Gorham to sixth in the 400 free relay (3:39.20).
• Osceola freshman Clara Williams was eighth in the 200 free (1:53.81), third in the 100 back (57.78), then helped teammates Natalie Iafe, Ana Forrister and Taylor Williams sixth-place in the 200 free relay and third in the 400 free relay.
• Freedom sophomore Abigail Leisure finished fifth in the 200 IM (2:07.35), third in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.30) and with teammates McKaley Goldblum, Genevieve Clark and Hannah Labohn seventh in the 400 free relay.
• Sunlake sophomore Dominic Ortanez was fourth in the 50 free (21.63).
• East Lake freshman Breyhana Tyme was sixth in the 100 back (58.64).