One's been swimming since he was 4 years old. • The other never raced competitively until high school. And that was because his sister made him. • Together they're quite a pair. • And now best friends Cole Wisecarver and Zach Kitzis can share a bond that will never leave them: as the first males in Strawberry Crest history to reach the state swim meet.
The duo sealed the accomplishment Thursday by competing in the Class 2A state meet at the Central Florida YMCA Aquatic Center in Orlando. Strawberry Crest sent three individuals, all juniors, to the meet with Angie Gallastegui returning from last season.
Until Wisecarver and Kitzis came up big in last weekend's Region 2A-3 meet in Dunedin, Gallastegui had been the only Charger swimmer ever to reach states.
"These kids are all-around awesome," said Strawberry Crest swim coach Bree Castelli. "I'm so excited for them, they've worked so hard."
Wisecarver has been working at it all his life, starting when he was 4.
Having been at it so long leads to some days where it's tougher to get motivated than others, Wisecarver said, but reaching state with his friend Kitzis brought all the time to fruition.
"Absolutely, Zach and I were talking about it since last year," Wisecarver said. "It felt so great to make it, especially with one of my best friends."
Wisecarver qualified in two events, finishing fourth in both the 50 and 100 freestyle races at regionals.
In correlation with their levels of experience, Wisecarver came a lot closer to state as a sophomore than did Kitzis. At last year's regional meet, Wisecarver was just a few spots away from qualifying.
By contrast, Kitzis had never swam a true race until his ninth-grade year at Strawberry Crest. He joined the Blue Wave out of Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center, and it all advanced from there. At the regional meet, he dropped six seconds off his time in the 500-meter freestyle in the morning prelims, and yet another six seconds in the late-afternoon final.
Gallastegui, who also swims the 500 and also is a Blue Wave member, has been at it since she was 7. And judging by her workload she's bound to be a collegiate swimmer too. She placed third in the 500 and fourth in the 200 to qualify in two events.
"Swimming, and Blue Wave has been a big part of it, has been one of the best learning experiences in so many ways," she said. "The main thing is time management. Having to swim two hours, and juggle AP classes, and a social life, oh yeah and sleeping . . . it's very hard to do. And swimming has helped me with other things like building respect for my teammates and other people."
Blue Wave had nine swimmers make it to Orlando. Several of its swimmers are from 3A power Newsome.
Plant City's Bailey Bowden is headed back to state as well but is racing in today's Class 3A meet. Bowden was seventh in the 500 meters last weekend at the Region 3A-2 event.
That performance has her seeded 11th today in Orlando.