The competitors in Saturday's Pinellas County Athletic Conference swimming and diving championships will take a flying leap into a talent pool that once again is likely to produce record-setting results, and the usual predictability:
Palm Harbor University, meet Countryside.
Countryside, meet Palm Harbor University.
The best public school swimming programs will square off for the first time this season, and a 1-2 finish is most likely, with the Hurricanes looking to extend their streak of boys team titles to 10, and the girls looking for a fourth straight championship.
But as always, the Cougars will be chasing.
"I know a lot of my swimmers are shooting for some really good relays and some really good times," said Countryside coach Ian O'Neil. "It's going to be tough looking at what they've got in there. They do have a lot of numbers. But Countryside is going to give them a run for their money."
The Cougars' hopes on the boys side are bolstered by the graduation of PHU star and county swimmer of the year Wes Stearns, and the addition to the Countryside roster of nationally ranked Matt Ellis.
Ellis, a transfer from Austin Westlake, was fifth in the 100-yard butterfly at the Texas state championships last spring, and his time of 49.30 seconds would have won that event at last year's PCAC meet by nearly three seconds. He also swam on two state-qualifying relays.
Ellis was also on the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championship Team that recently competed in Hawaii.
"He might be our shining star," said O'Neil.
While PHU coach Lisa Bitting graduated a wealth of talent, she is extremely high on her freshman class. She thinks the new influx of talent is enough to keep both Hurricane teams on top for the foreseeable future.
On the girls side, Tarpon Springs will try to become the first team since Seminole in 2005 to break the PHU-Countryside hold on the top two spots. The Spongers are led by Kelsey Buckley, Kelly Verheyleweghen and Melissa Damaske. The trio tuned up for the PCAC by combining for five individual wins Tuesday in a victory over Largo.