East Lake's Alexandra Aitchison did not know what to expect when she transferred from Arizona in August.
The junior figured she could improve in her two signature events, the 200-yard freestyle and 500 free. But she had no idea she would be able to leave the rest of the competition in her wake. Entering Saturday's Class 4A state meet, Aitchison is seeded first in the 200 free (1 minute, 48.71 seconds) and 500 free (4:50.57) and could be the only county swimmer to win multiple titles in individual events.
"Everything has really come together," he said. "I knew I got my time down, but I was a little surprised to be seeded first in both events."
Two years ago, Aitchison won a state title in the 500 free. Last season she had mono, which forced her to miss the state meet. This year, she has built up her stamina in workouts with the Clearwater Aquatic Team, which also has helped drop more than six seconds off personal records in the 200 and 500 free.
"I think the high intensity with the workouts has helped me with my speed and endurance for longer periods of time," Aitchison said. "Hopefully, I can keep it going this week and win."
Besides her individual events, Aitchison also will swim legs on the 200 and 400 free relays, which will be bolstered by the return of Sydney Pickrem, who missed the district and region meets while competing in the FINA Swimming World Cup in Japan.
Palm Harbor University's boys are heavily favored to win the title at Saturday's Class 4A state meet in Stuart.
It will be a shock if the Hurricanes do not win their third title in seven seasons, which would cement their status as perhaps the greatest swimming dynasty in the Tampa Bay area.
Coach Lisa Bitting scored the meet based off seed times from last week's region meet. She has the Hurricanes beating Sarasota Riverview 229-160.
Depth will be the difference for PHU, which has swimmers seeded in the top eight in nearly every individual event and two relays (200 medley and 400 free) that are seeded first. And the point differential could widen considering Bitting did not have boys swimmers taper until this week to get ready for states.
The surprise is PHU's girls, who could be in position to win their first title. Bitting has Riverview beating her team 203-185. The Hurricanes' Kendall McIntosh is seeded first in the 50 free. But PHU will need more from its strong contingent to make up points.
From signing to state champ
Four county swimmers who signed letters of intent Wednesday — Countryside's Ryan Peters (Cincinnati), Palm Harbor University's Tristan Sanders (Michigan), Osceola's Alex Wittman (Ohio State), St. Petersburg's McKenna Harris (FSU) — have shots at titles.
In Class 3A, Wittman is seeded second in the 500 free (4:51.97) and third in the 200 free (1:50.77).
In 4A, McKenna was state runnerup in the 100 breast last year and Sanders is the defending state champion in the 100 back. Peters leads the Cougars' 200 free relay team that enters as the top seed.