CLEARWATER — Palm Harbor University's boys and girls swim teams have dominated district meets for so long that it seems the beginning of November cannot go on without the Hurricanes sweeping team titles.
But there were changes in classifications and districts this season that made it difficult for PHU to maintain its stranglehold, particularly with the girls now having three-time defending state champ Sarasota Riverview in Class 4A, District 6.
PHU's boys, who are strong enough to contend for a state title, had no trouble winning their eighth straight district team title Saturday at the Long Center, outscoring East Lake 467-363. The Hurricanes' girls, though, could not win their eighth straight title, losing to the Rams 468-459.
"We knew it was going to be tough, and awfully close on the girls side," PHU coach Lisa Bitting said. "It's a very tough district, and probably the fastest in the state other than Jacksonville Bolles."
Bitting said the turning point for the girls came with a third-place finish in the 200 free relay, an event the Hurricanes were seeded to win.
"That was a 16-point swing right there," Bitting said.
PHU's lone girls champion was Kendall McIntosh, who won the 50 free in 24.05 seconds.
East Lake's girls entered the meet without Sydney Pickrem, the Tampa Bay Times' Pinellas County swimmer of the year the past two seasons who is competing in the FINA Swimming World Cup, an international series of short-course swim meets that is open to FINA member countries.
Still, the Eagles did well, led by Alexandria Aitchison, who won the 200 free (1:47.42), the 500 free (4:47.11) and swam legs on the winning 200 free (1:39.49) and 400 free (3:32.95) relays. The Eagles also won the 200 medley relay (1:50.04).
"I wanted to do well to help our team and move on," Aitchison said. "I'm excited for what we can do next week."
On the boys side, the Hurricanes were dominant, placing in the top three in all but two events.
PHU's Tristan Sanders, a Michigan recruit, won the 50 free (21.32) and 100 back (49.86). He also teamed with Garrett Hoce, Manuel Barragan and Shaun VanHuyssteen on the winning 200 medley relay (1:36.72).
3A-8: Osceola run reaches four titles
Osceola's girls won their fourth straight district title, beating Northeast 416-350 at the Class 3A, District 8 meet hosted by Sarasota.
The Warriors' Alex Wittman, who recently committed to Ohio State, took first in the 200 free (1:56.03) and 500 free (5:03.43). Teammate Savannah Sawyers won the 50 free (25.07) and the 100 breast (1:09.68).
Both swam on the winning 200 medley relay (1:55.02) and the second-place 400 free relay that set a school record (3:43.75).
"I wasn't able to set any records personally, but I'm happy with what I did," Wittman said. "I'm probably even more excited for my team and us winning districts again."
The Vikings' Caroline Neely won the 100 back (59.30), was second in the 500 free (5:07.45) and swam on the winning 200 free (1:42.79) and 400 free (3:42.05) relays.
Osceola's boys finished second with 392 points.
The Warriors' Calvin Bryant won the 200 free (1:45.96) and 500 free (4:38.06) and was the anchor leg on the winning 200 free relay (1:32.19).
A-3: Berkeley Prep sweeps region titles
ST. PETERSBURG — By the time the 400 freestyle relay started Saturday, Berkeley Prep coach Kevin Rosepapa already knew his girls team had enough of a cushion in points to win the Class A, Region 3 title for the first time since 2006.
The difference came a day earlier, and not in the pool but on the diving springboards. The Bucs took the top four spots in 1-meter diving, which was held Friday. The 68 points in that event helped Berkeley Prep outscore Tampa Prep 320-317 for the title.
"We just have so much depth with both the boys and the girls," said Rosepapa, whose team will look toward the state meet later this week. "We try to place three, four swimmers in each and score. It adds up."
Elle Chancey won multiple swimming events, taking first in the 50 free (24.35 seconds) and 100 free (50.10). But Berkeley Prep also gobbled points by placing swimmers in the top three in seven of 12 events.
Clearwater Central Catholic had two champions: Emma Spilman in the 100 fly (56.73) and Mackenzie Stumpf in the 100 breast (1:05.73).
The Bucs were even stronger on the boys side, beating Tampa Prep 368-286.5 for their fifth straight region team title.
Shorecrest finished third overall. The Chargers' John Farese won the 100 free (47.45) and finished second in the 100 back (51.79). Teammate Joshua Chen took first in the 100 breast (59.15) and was second in the 200 IM (1:58.51). Both swam with Mark Marshburn and Alex Grant on the winning 200 medley (1:36.88) and 400 free (3:13.36) relays.
The only setback Shorecrest had was Grant being disqualified for a false start in the 100 fly, an event he likely would have won.
"I'm real proud of the way the boys swam," Shorecrest coach Patty Nardozzi said. "They all did what they needed to do to move on."
Clearwater Central Catholic's Matthew Hirschberger won the 500 free (4:31.40) and teamed with Michael Hedrich, Antonio Pinero and Cameron Newton to finish first in the 200 free relay (1:29.68).