CLEARWATER — At the start of the season, it appeared Palm Harbor University's stranglehold on district swim titles might be in jeopardy. After all, several strong programs, including Northeast, Plant and Seminole, moved into Class 3A, District 5.
That made it one of the toughest — and fastest — districts in the state, and the abundance of talent could have played a factor in nullifying the Hurricanes' superior depth.
Nevertheless, things remained the same Saturday.
Palm Harbor University won its ninth straight boys title, scoring 434 points, 99 more than Countryside. And the Hurricanes also won their third straight girls title, outscoring Plant 403 to 371.
"This is the toughest district I've ever coached in," PHU coach Lisa Bitting said. "There are so many good swimmers. It places even more importance on getting kids through, and we were able to do that."
The Hurricanes boys placed in the top four in every swimming event. Wes Stearns led PHU, taking first in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 43.62 seconds) and the 500 free (4:35.21) and swimming a leg on the top 400 free relay (3:17.72). Stearns was the only boy at the meet to win more than one individual event.
On the girls side, the Hurricanes had a close battle with the Panthers.
Plant's Alex Hagan took first in diving with 414.10 points, and the 200 free relay of Rebecca Werdine, Elin Slaatmo, Haley Hahmann and Hillary Hahmann won in 1:40.98.
PHU did not win a girls event but still prevailed by placing swimmers in the top eight in every event.
Countryside's Melanie Margalis won the 200 individual medley (2:00.64) and the 500 free (4:49.79) and swam a leg on the top 200 medley relay (1:51.53) and 400 free relay (3:38.45).
Seminole's Kaitlin Frehling was the only other girl from the meet to win multiple events, taking first in the 50 free (24.16 seconds) and 100 fly (57.50).