ORLANDO — Countryside's Melanie Margalis stepped onto the blocks for the 200 individual medley, leaned forward and stared into the Orlando YMCA pool.
An instant later, she and her competitors were gone, streaking several feet beneath the water. When Margalis emerged, ahead of the field, she started into the lunging motion of her butterfly stroke. She kept up her pace in the breaststroke and backstroke before heading down the stretch in the freestyle.
When Margalis touched the wall, she knew she already had won. Then she looked at scoreboard and didn't see what she wanted. Her goal of breaking the state record in the event came up short. She finished in one minute, 59.15 seconds, which was 0.24 seconds off the record.
"I knew going in I had a pretty good shot at winning," said Margalis, the defending state champion in the event. "But what I really wanted was the state record."
Margalis also took second in the 100 breast (1:03.46) behind Miami Douglas' Lindsey McKnight, who set a state record in 1:01.73.
Palm Harbor University's Katie Coleman joined Margalis as the only girls from the county to win individual state titles. Coleman took first in the 100 fly in 54.85, 0.34 seconds off the state record.
"I'm relieved to finally win after coming close for so many years," Coleman said. "The only thing I was disappointed in was not breaking the state record."
Countryside's Rachel Burns was second in the 200 free (1:48.99) and third in the 100 free (50.09). Largo's Ashly Isaacson was second in the 50 free (23.79). St. Petersburg's Tracy Rorer finished third in the 100 breast.
The Cougars also placed third in the 200 free relay, fourth in the 400 free relay and sixth in the 200 free relay. That helped Countryside score 179 points to take third overall, the highest placement among county girls teams.
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4169.