ORLANDO — In the 100-yard butterfly, Mitchell's Devin McCaffrey squared off against swimmers who were considerably older and more accomplished.
One lane was occupied by Miami Belen Jesuit's Andy Vazquez, the defending state runnerup. Another lane was occupied by Pace's Brandon Funk, who finished in the top eight a year ago.
Then there was McCaffrey, the only freshman competing in the finals of the 100 fly Thursday at the Class 2A state meet.
But he put aside any fears of drowning in a pool of expectations, finishing second with personal-best time of 51.40 seconds.
"Sure there were nerves, and a few jitters before the race," McCaffrey said. "I was the youngest one up there. I just knew I had to step it up."
There were other reasons McCaffrey could have worried himself right off the awards podium. He was swimming the state finals without his high school coach, Joe Lampkin, suspended by Mitchell administrators for the remainder of the season stemming from an incident at last week's region meet. Assistant principal Jessica Schultz took over as interim coach.
"I really tried to just block all that stuff out, anything that was negative," McCaffrey said. "I just wanted to go out there and focus on my races."
McCaffrey turned his mind into a bunker that fortified him against any self-doubts. He added another runnerup finish in the 100 breast with a time of 1:00.28. And he teamed with Alex Wegener, Ian Ondrejka and Gavin Hunt on the sixth-place 200 medley relay team (1:42.94).
McCaffrey's strong performance helped the Mustangs finish 12th overall with 62 points. Miami Belen Jesuit won the boys team title with 266.5.
On the girls side, Wiregrass Ranch's Rebecca Pindral was the North Suncoast's only place winner, finishing eighth in the 100 breast in 1:09.93. Sickles was in contention for the girls team title and held the lead until the final three events. The Gryphons faded and finished fourth with 140 points.