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Patches and pride on line in first SAC swim meet

It is only fitting that Gulf should host the first Sunshine Athletic Conference Swim and Dive Meet. After all, the New Port Richey school pioneered the sport in Pasco County.

Today and Saturday pit Gulf, River Ridge, Land O'Lakes, Hudson, Zephyrhills and Springstead in diving and racing events for conference supremacy. The top two finishers in each of the boys and girls events will be awarded SAC patches.

Gulf and River Ridge are the favorites to win the first conference team championship, but each school features swimmers and divers with legitimate cracks at individual titles.

Land O'Lakes, for example, is vastly improved. The Gators, who won their first two meets in school history last year and have six victories this season.

"It's going to be really close," River Ridge coach Devin Kane said. "Land O'Lakes will be up there for the girls."

Not to be overlooked, Zephyrhills made waves in its first season by winning three meets.

"I think they're proud to do as well as they did in the first year," Zephyrhills coach Shannon Mathews said.

Hudson, another newcomer to the sport, and Springstead struggled, but both schools could place someone in the top echelon this weekend.

Although the Cobras, who numbered just 15 swimmers, went winless in their inaugural season, coach Nikol White was pleased with her team.

"We didn't win any meets, but that's okay because everybody improved and that's all I was looking for," she said.

Kane and Gulf coach Linda Cassidy, who helped found the first Buccaneers swim team in 1984, are glad the sport is getting more recognition.

Kane also hopes to avenge a 1-point loss to Gulf earlier this season.

"They beat us in a dual meet so we want to show them what we can do," Kane said. "It's going to be who's the best in Pasco County. We've never had that before. There's a lot of pride in winning the first (SAC meet)."

The top competitors from each school figure to be:

Gulf _ Gary Ashworth, Kim Hanje, Rachel Huber, Julie Muckler, Abe Stewart, Annie Stewart, Anna Tietz and Jacob Vaughn.

Hudson _ Kiersten Bialkoski, Meagan Finneran and Lukas Noga.

Land O'Lakes _ Jenni Anderson, Jeff Curtis, Andrew Gil, Kelly Hartmann, Anne Karpay, Melissa LaVigne, Jody Luczynski, Brooke Nelson and Ali Van Broekhoven.

River Ridge _ Jimmy Battista, Chris Burley, Anthony Ciquera, Heather Dull, Melanie Goodchild, Amanda Mahovic, Barry Miller, Christy Parzik and Kim Rumble.

Springstead _ Paul Brandimarto, Chris Collinsworth, R.J. Dofka, Shannon Hulton, Mandy Loomis and Melissa Roth.

Zephyrhills _ Stephan Apel, Dennis Avera, Josh Borders, Laura Ferber, Alisha Frum, Jason Ippolito and Dale LaBang and Jade Osterman.

Up next:GREAT CATCH

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