PALM HARBOR — There they were, a Palm Harbor University express of swimmers, each mirroring the other's effortless strokes as they touched the wall in the 500-yard freestyle.
In a season-ending dual Wednesday against two of the county's undefeated boys and girls teams, the Hurricanes used the 500 freestyle as the catalyst to distance themselves from their fiercest rival and sweep both titles.
PHU's boys won 117-71, beating Countryside for the sixth straight year. The Hurricanes girls got their second straight win over the Cougars, 102-84.
"It's an event where we are really strong and were able to use our depth," PHU coach Lisa Bitting said of the 500 free.
The Hurricanes' Wes Stearns, who set the county record in the 500 free last month, won the event in 4 minutes, 41.90 seconds. Three other PHU swimmers finished in the top six. Stearns also won the 200 free (1:46.10) and swam a leg on the winning 200 free relay (1:33.38) and 400 free relay (3:20.36).
Other boys swimmers to win multiple events were the Hurricanes' Ryan McRae in the 100 free (49.57) and 100 back (57.17) and Countryside's Jonathan Taddeo in the 200 individual medley (1:59.54) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.28).
The girls 500 free was similar to the boys with PHU taking four of the top six spots. But the winner in the event was the Cougars' Melanie Margalis in 4:55.15.
Margalis also won the 200 IM (2:13.73) and was on the winning 200 medley relay (1:53.95) and 400 free relay (3:43.95). Other girls to win multiple events were the Hurricanes' Emily Bloxam in the 50 free (25.64) and the 100 free (56.01) and Countryside's Lauren Hall in the 100 fly (1:00.63) and 100 breaststroke (1:09.97).
Bitting said Kristi Katopis' victory in the 100 back (1:03.62) was key.