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SPCC is excited about tough challenge

St. Petersburg Country Club may have the smallest contingent of swimmers in this weekend's Pinellas Aquatic League Championships, but it has a lot of enthusiasm.

"We are, indeed, small in numbers with just 31 going to the meet," SPCC coach Katy Booth said, "but we're mighty.

"Our swimmers are spilt pretty evenly throughout the age groups, although we have a few more in the 10-and-under grouping," she said. "We especially have a good group of 6-and-under swimmers."

The championships at the Long Center in Clearwater began Saturday and conclude this afternoon. Bardmoor Aquatic Team is serving as the host to seven clubs and more than 700 athletes.

"The Westlake Village Swim Team is certainly favored on the strength of its numbers, bringing 185 swimmers to the meet," Bardmoor coach Tom Haight said.

"It looks like it's going to be a fun meet. A number of the clubs have experienced various degrees of success throughout the summer."

Other squads challenging for the title are Countryside Country Club Aquatic, Carlouel Yacht Club, East Lake Woodlands Aquatic and Lansbrook.

"We have a real healthy mix of swimmers among the 700 kids," Haight said, "and we may see some records broken, although it's hard to predict.

"We have some swimmers back in their same age group for the second year, so some may," he said. "We do have some top-notched swimmers competing."

Booth has concentrated on tapering the last two weeks with hopes of preparing her athletes for the meet. There has been less emphasis on yardage and more on technique.

"We've worked on starts and turns a lot," Booth said. "We don't want anyone to get disqualified on either one.

"This meet essentially ends our season, and we'd like to go out with a bang."

Today's competition begins at 8:30 a.m. The finals are scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.

MORE SWIMMING: East Lake Woodlands won the Strawberry Invitational in Lakeland with a score of 970.5.

Bardmoor was third with 694 points, Countryside fourth (661) and Westlake sixth (638).

Other local finishers were Dunedin Aquatic Club, eighth; Carlouel, 10th; West Florida Lightning Aquatics, 12th; and Clearwater Aquatic Team, 14th.

In all, 32 squads participated in the annual meet.

Among the high-point winners were Dunedin's Aubrey Haas, in the 6-and-under division; Kelsey Buckley, 8-and-under; and Henry Samuel, 11-12; Bardmoor's Amanda Miller, in the 11-12 bracket; and Westlake's Blake Freeman, in 10-and-under.

Other top-five performers were Clearwater's Sarah Hughes and Catherine Wegner, in the 6-and-under class; Rebecca Howard, 10-and-under; and Julianne Tsargaris, 11-12; Dunedin's Myah Farrington, in 10-and-under; and Zachary Perrotti, 8-and-under; Bardmoor's Jessica Brown and Josh Gordon, in 13-14; Carlouel's Jared Brown, in 8-and-under; East Lake's Taylor Frazier, in 8-and-under; Lauren Ellington, 13-14; and Sam Venker, 10-and-under; Countryside's Stephen Sabadosh and Stephen Tsargaris, in 10-and-under; Westlake's Aaron Brecher, in 13-14; and WFLA's Mary Anne Thomas, in senior.

DIVING: Austin Hampton and Alex Tillbrook qualified for this month's Junior Olympic National Championships in Stanford, Calif.

Hampton captured a berth by finishing second in the platform event, third on the 1-meter and fourth on the 3-meter in the 14-15 division of the U.S. Zone Championships. Tillbrook was seventh on the 1-meter and fifth on the 3-meter in the 16-18 competition.

Clearwater Aquatic Team member Cody Dodds placed ninth on the 1-meter and 15th on the 3-meter in the 13-and-under class. In the squad's other 1-meter results, Jessica Rettig was 17th in 14-15, Kaila Johnston 23rd in 16-18, and Josh Matson 19th in 16-18.

BASEBALL Standout pitcher Molly McKesson, 16, of St. Petersburg is a member of the Team USA roster for the second time.

The squad will participate in the Women's International Baseball Association World Series, Sept. 2-8 in St. Petersburg.

McKesson, a Gibbs High School junior, is the first girl to compete in baseball in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference.

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: Suncoast WaterWorks swimmers were among nearly 1,100 athletes in the Esynchro Age Group Championships in Seattle.

More than 70 clubs competed in the nine-day event.

A 10th-place finish was earned by the 12-13 duet of Keeley Lawner and Abbie Zohn. StaceyDavidson, Kendall Carey, Lawner and Zohn took 18th in the 14-15 team competition.

Nichole Lee and Rachel Rooth were 10th in their 14-15 duet, and they swam with Andrea Patterson tofourth in 14-15 trio.

Darcee Kingsley and Patterson placed 18th in 14-15 duet, and Jamie Freshour and Meredith Cooke were 10th in 16-17 duet.