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Promising Lecanto dives into work

Bob Chambers and Tracee Glover have a mission: Turn the Lecanto swim program into the area's best.

But they have a problem: The Panthers are well behind their high school contemporaries in terms of experience, depth and sheer numbers.

If there's one thing Lecanto has in its favor, though, it is Chambers.

To say that the first-year coach is motivated would be an understatement. Consumed is more like it.

"I really love it," said Chambers, who takes over for Paul Brundage. "I'm looking forward not only to this year, but to those years when we will be able to go to districts and bring home some trophies.

"That's not long away either," he said. "We have a lot of very good freshmen."

The return of one of the area's top individuals doesn't hurt either.

Allison Brundage is back in the county after spending the early part of last season at Orlando Lake Highland Prep.

One of the most promising swimmers to emerge in Citrus in years, Brundage shattered district records in the 50 and 100 freestyle before transferring to Lake Highland.

She didn't take to Lake Highland and returned to Lecanto within months. Brundage isn't quite at the level she was when she left.

"She's still at the top," Glover said. "She's one of the best, and it's nice having her on team. She also helps the other swimmers with their strokes, and she helps motivate everybody."

Brundage isn't alone.

Tara Gayheart took second in the district diving competition a year ago and enters the season as the area's top female in that event. She will be joined by fellow diver Michelle Townsend and promising sophomores Amanda Rose, Amanda Beery and Jenna Rhames.

The boys aren't nearly as lucky or loaded.

Gone is two-time district diving champion Chris Gayheart, and the Panthers don't appear to have anyone ready to replace him.

Meanwhile, the leadership duties have fallen to Brent Hallowell, the team's lone senior. He's competing in several events in an effort to make up for Lecanto's lack of depth, but Hallowell may concentrate on the sprint freestyle events (50, 100) by the end of the season.

"My goal is to help individual swimmers," Chambers said. "And as our individual swimmers improve, then our team goals of being competitive will be realized.

"I hate to put any limitations on them." he said. "I'd like to see them all make it (to state). But that really will be determined by how much we're able to motivate them, how much I'm able to give them as coach and how much dedication they have."