STUART — Palm Harbor University High's boys cemented their status as the bay area's preeminent swimming dynasty, outscoring Sarasota Riverview 276-219 at the Class 4A state meet Saturday to win their third team title in the past six seasons.
State team titles are rare among public schools, particularly in this area. Since 1945, only three bay area programs have won: Clearwater's boys in 1978, Seminole's girls in 1985 and PHU's boys in 2008 and 2011.
The Hurricanes have won three of them and are the only bay area program to win multiple titles since St. Petersburg's boys won six from 1924-45.
Palm Harbor University coach Lisa Bitting has been a part of four. She also was the captain on Seminole's 1985 girls team.
"I'd probably say this is the best team I've had," Bitting said. "This is one of those teams where I said at the beginning of the year that we could a state title, and I usually don't say those kinds of things.
"That's how much confidence I had in them. And they exceeded even my expectations by what they were able to do."
The 276 points were the most PHU has ever scored at a state meet, and the team finished with a school-record four state titles in either relays or individual events.
The Hurricanes have stayed formidable for this long because they have a deep, evolving roster with stalwarts at the most important positions.
On Saturday, Tristan Sanders led the way. The Michigan signee defended his title in the 100-yard backstroke by winning in a personal-best 47.79 seconds. In the 50 free, Sanders was second in 20.64.
He was just as strong in the relays. In the 200 medley, Sanders teamed with Garrett Hoce, Manuel Barragan and Shaun Van Huyssteen to win in 1:33.22. Sanders then swam with Luis Rivadeneira, Barragan and Taylor Uselis to take gold in the 400 free relay (3:05.47).
The state team title was particularly gratifying for Sanders, who had to sit out his sophomore season in 2011 after transferring from East Lake.
"The team title was important to all of us," Sanders said. "For me, it was a last hoorah, and I just wanted to go all-out. I'm happy with what I was able to do."
Barragan was a state champion in the 200 individual medley (1:49.94) and second in the 100 fly (49.27). Uselis was second in the 200 free (1:39.99) and 500 free (4:27.92).
East Lake's Naza Boscaino defended his state title in the 500 free (4:26.89) and third in the 200 free (1:40.25). "I trained real hard to gear up for this moment in the finals (of the 500 free)," he said. "I knew it was going to be a tough race, and I just wanted to swim as strong as possible."
Countryside's Ryan Peters finished his high school career by winning his first state in the 200 free (1:39.20). He also was second in the 100 back (49.82) and teamed with Michael Lombardo, Tommy Kelly and Cooper Hoffman to win the 200 free relay (1:24.93).
"I was worried more about what other swimmers would do," Peters said. "I was hoping no one would have any breakout type of swim. Overall, I couldn't ask for anything more to finish my senior season."
Seminole's Stefan Spiric was the state runnerup in the 100 free (45.06).
Plant's Kyle Kimura and Newsome's Wes McGovern were the only swimmers to place in the top four in multiple events from Hillsborough County.
Kimura was fourth in the 200 free (1:40.58) and in the 100 fly (50.62). McGovern was third in the 500 free (4:29.93) and third in the 100 back (51.07).