At first, coach Shannon Mathews wondered how Zephyrhills' first swim team would ever win a race.
It's not that some of her swimmers lacked the speed in certain events. It was a matter of either jumping the gun at the start or being disqualified for improper turns. The Bulldogs had nine disqualifications in their opener, a tri-meet against Gulf and Hudson.
Since then, the Bulldogs (3-5) have gotten better timing their leaps into the water and at turning correctly.
"We haven't had any DQs in the last two meets," Mathews said. "I've got a real hard-working bunch."
That hard work paid off last week in the form of a 206-128 win over Hudson, another upstart team. The Bulldogs and Cobras joined Gulf, River Ridge, Land O'Lakes and Springstead, which led to the formation of the Sunshine Athletic Conference.
"They wanted that one bad," Mathews said of her team's win over an SAC rival. "The kids realized that these are going to be teams that we're going to be seeing every year."
The Bulldogs set four personal bests against Hudson. Josh Borders had two of those marks, winning the 50 freestyle (25.70) and 100 free (57.80). Stephan Apel won the 200 free (2:27.40) and Laura Ferber won the 100 butterfly (1:27.16).
Usually, Mathews said, the team establishes about 20 school records per meet. Against Admiral Farragut, for example, 34 records were set by Zephyrhills swimmers and divers.
Mathews attributed the dropoff to last week's weather. "It was cold," she said, estimating the water temperature in the mid-70s and the temperature outside at about 65 degrees.
"I think it's great that they're doing well and they're making a showing," Gulf coach Linda Cassidy said of Zephyrhills.
Another team making a rather impressive showing this year is Land O'Lakes. The Gators did not win a meet their first two seasons, won twice last year and are 5-4 entering tonight's meet against Gibbs.
"They're coming along," Cassidy said of Land O'Lakes, which last week lost to Gulf 194-156. "They're getting better swimmers. They're getting stronger and older."
Anne Karpay and Jeff Curtis each had two wins against Gulf, and Land O'Lakes' 200 medley girls relay team of Ali Van Broekhoven, Karpay, Kristen Powell and Danielle Dilworth won in 2:19.05.
Karpay's victories came in the 200 individual medley (2:36.63) and 100 breaststroke (1:20.49). Curtis took firsts in the 100 fly (1:02.53) and 100 backstroke.
Land O'Lakes also swept Gulf in diving, with Kelly Hartmann winning in the boys meet and Melissa LaVigne finishing first in the girls event.
Besides the Land O'Lakes-Gibbs meet, tonight's schedule includes Pinellas Park at Gulf and Hernando at Zephyrhills.