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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
Our annual picks for the top golfers, swimmers, cross country runners and volleyball players.
Alex Eaton, Jr., Shorecrest Preparatory
The girls cross country scene was supposed to be a wide-open race, but Eaton made sure it wasn’t much of a competition, winning every big meet against county foes. She went on to win a district title and was the region runnerup, losing to the defending state champion. She was third at the Class A state meet, finishing in a county-best 18:33.78.
Paul McKenna, Sr., Countryside
One of the county’s top runners the past two seasons, McKenna was the runner to beat and he didn’t disappoint. He established himself as the county’s top runner by winning the Cougar Invitational and stayed on top with conference, district and region titles. At the Class 4A state meet, McKenna finished ninth, best among any county boys runner regardless of classification. McKenna had a goal of running under 16 minutes and accomplished at the state meet with a personal-best 15:56.24. He was the only county runner to go under 16 minutes this season.
Claire Snyder, Jr., Academy of the Holy Names
A repeat winner of this award, Snyder, who transferred from Tampa Prep in the offseason, capped another sparkling autumn with a fifth-place finish (18:51.96) at the Class 2A state meet. Her state placing was the county’s best, and her time was second-best (a second shy of Plant’s Julia Rodriguez). A repeat county champ (where she overtook Rodriguez in the final 400 meters), Snyder won five races including the Class 2A, District 9 and Region 3 meets.
Abdin Fator, Sr., Sickles
Fator’s breakthrough senior year featured six victories and two runnerup finishes. Following the most disciplined offseason of his career, he opened the fall by winning the West Hillsborough Invitational at Al Lopez Park, and never really backtracked. His highlights — wins at the county championships; FSU Pre-State (boys invitational division); flrunners.com Invitational (boys large school division); and Class 3A, District 8 meet. He placed second at the Region 2 championships, and finished the season with a 19th-place effort in the 3A race in 16:04.23 (arguably the deepest classification) at state.
Jack Maguire, Sr., St. Petersburg
Two words: state champion. Maguire trailed by a stroke after the first day, then shot 4-under 68 on the second to win the Class 2A tournament by two shots at Deer Island Country Club in Tavares. During the regular season, he won the Mustang Invitational at Seminole Lakes CC with even-par 71. His PCAC nine-hole stroke average was 35, tops in the county. After shooting 73 during a cold, windy opening round, Maguire shot 32 on his first nine holes and went even par on the second nine to win.
Lauren Coe, Sr., Palm Harbor University High
Coe had a 36-stroke average for nine holes during regular season play. She also won the district championship with 1-under 70 at Heritage Springs. Coe was seventh at the Class 2A state tournament with consecutive rounds of 77, best of any Pinellas golfer. Coe says she has two defining moments this year. The first was finishing seventh at state. Her opening round was especially impressive considering the cold and gusty conditions. The second was her district score, her lowest 18-hole score of the high school season.
Jimmy Stanger, Sr., Gaither
A University of Virginia signee, Stanger came within five strokes of the postseason trifecta — district, region and state titles. He won the first two, both at Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club, before finishing third (1-over-par 145) at the 36-hole Class 2A state tournament in Tavares. A two-time District 9 champion, Stanger shot 34 on the Temple Terrace back nine at the Region 3 tournament to finish at 1-under 71 and edge close friend Sam Horsfield by a stroke. Solid throughout the season, he averaged 35.2 in his nine-hole rounds.
Terese Romeo, So., Freedom
A 4-foot-9 former gymnast, Romeo underwent her second right wrist surgery in August. Forbidden by doctors from using her right hand at the season’s outset, Romeo played her first three rounds of the season left-handed, with kid-sized clubs. She won the Class 2A, District 10 title by three strokes, followed with a region championship, and tied for 11th (two-day 158) at the 2A state tournament in Lady Lake. Her state placing was the best of any county player.
Ryan McRae, Sr., Palm Harbor University High
McRae kept the Hurricanes among the state’s elite programs with a stellar performance. At the Class 3A state meet, McRae won the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 37.67 seconds, and finished second in the 100 free in 45.41. He also was part of the 400 free relay that finished as the state runnerup in 3:06.94. All of this helped PHU finish second overall, 38 points behind champion Boca Raton. McRae not only won his first state title, but he had automatic All-America qualifying times in all three of his events. He also has been a part of two state team titles.
Sydney Pickrem, So., East Lake
For two straight seasons, Pickrem has come close to winning multiple state titles. Pickrem won the 200 IM in 2:01.40 and finished second in the 100 backstroke in 55:38 at this year’s Class 3A state meet. She was the only girls swimmer from the county to win a state title in any classification. Pickrem injured her ankle in May and was unable to do any breaststroke workouts for three months, which hurt her in the individual medley. It also forced her to concentrate more on the 100 backstroke this season.
Rasmus Skjaerpe, Jr., Tampa Preparatory
Skjaerpe has been one of the county’s top swimmers since his freshman year. This year he brought gold back from the Class A state meet to affirm his status as one of the best in Florida and the nation. Skjaerpe was the county’s top individual finisher with his first-place, automatic All-America time of 1:38.20 in the 200 free. He also claimed silver in the 100 butterfly with another automatic All-America time (49.08) and was a member of Tampa Prep’s seventh-place 400 free relay.
Maddie Hess, So., Newsome
Last fall, Hess was disqualified in the Class 3A state finals of the 100 backstroke after a false start. She spent a lot of time at the meet watching girl after girl take the podium to accept their medals. Hess took her turn at the top of the podium this year. Hess won three gold medals — 100 free, 100 back and 200 medley relay — and a bronze in the 400 free relay. Her times in the 100 free (50.88) and 100 back (55.01) won her automatic All-America honors.
Sidney Brown, Jr., Berkeley Preparatory
Brown ably filled the shoes of Jordan Burgess and Mackenzie Dagostino, two of the most decorated players in Hillsborough and Berkeley Prep history. She was the leader of the Bucs’ run to the Class 4A title game, where they lost to MaxPreps’ No. 1-ranked Orlando Bishop Moore and snapped a three-year streak of state titles. Taking over as the Bucs’ top hitter, she finished as one of the area’s leaders in kills at 5.2 per game.
Ashlyn MacGregor, Sr., Tarpon Springs
No player had a bigger impact on her team than MacGregor. “With Ashlyn we won 23 games. Without her we might have won 10,” coach Patrick Sneed said. She had 466 kills in 89 games, 5.2 per game. MacGregor also led the team with 100 blocks and had 42 aces. In the district final against Mitchell, she had 38 kills and eight blocks. On a team with only two club players, MacGregor had to perform most every night.