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Pirate foes in deep trouble

Perennial power Crystal River remains the area's premiere program despite the loss of several individual champions.

It's not often that one can lose three district champions _ in five events, no less _ one conference champ and sound as confident as Crystal River coach Tim Holme.

Then again, when you've won five consecutive boys district titles and your girls have taken two of the last four, confidence just seems part of the game.

No doubt, Crystal River will not be the same team it was a year ago after losing Craig Edmonds (200 and 500 freestyle champion), Natalie Rockefeller (100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke champ), Crystal Kazemfar (diving champ) and Jon Sparkman (GCAC diving champ).

Yet it will be the team to beat thanks to the best participation of all the area's high schools.

"I think we've created an environment that people want to be a part of," Crystal River coach Tim Holme said. "We work hard, but we have a good time and I think that's part of it.

"This is our ninth year and we've always tried to create an atmosphere where we encourage people to do their best," he said. "We love to win, but the emphasis has always been on whether we are better today than we were yesterday."

Crystal River may not be as good as it was yesterday, but it's pretty good.

The biggest loss for Holme is Edmonds, a senior who had a falling out with the coach and left the program.

However, the cupboard hardly is bare with the returning foursome of Andrew Preston, Ashley Preston, Chris Grillo and Andy Lanier.

In addition, Holme has seen some promising performances from newcomer Duncan Mackie, who transferred from Coconut Creek for his senior year.

A change in district assignments has Holme wondering, though, whether a sixth straight crown remains a possibility.

"Until I see what other people are doing, I don't know," he said. "I think we're on the right track now to be better than we were last year.

"If that's what it takes, we could repeat. But I have no idea. I know little or nothing about the teams in the district."

Holme has a potentially better group on the girls side, where the Pirates have experience and talent.

Liz Garrick qualified in four events and leads a squad that includes fellow seniors Rachel Carnahan, Sarah Barnard and Lindsey Wood along with promising junior Cherokee Boose.

The latter has come on strong in the last year and could be the replacement for Rockefeller in the breaststroke and individual medley. In addition, Holme has been impressed by freshmen swimmer Kellie Brooks and diver Katie Connolly, who, along with Kari Sparkman, will try to fill the hole left by Kazemfar.

"We have a nice group of freshmen girls and boys," Holme said. "It's going to be fun."