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County athletes will battle top competition

It was cold, it was raining and she was sick.

At least Kennah Johnson was content with the notion she was going to qualify for the Florida Finals in the Class 2A 100-meter freestyle because bad weather would force the cancellation of the District 4 finals.

Then officials decided the finals must be contested.

The Hernando High junior overcame the elements and her runny nose, finishing third to become one of an eight-person Hernando County contingent in the Finals on Saturday at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex in Ft. Lauderdale.

Springstead will send junior Matt Barry (100 breast, 50 free); Barry's freshman sister Sarah (200 individual medley, 100 breast) and its 200 girls medley and 400 free relays of Barry, juniors Ashley Martin and Sarah Siegel and sophomore Bobbie Brice. Martin also qualified in the 100 backstroke.

Hernando will be represented by Johnson, senior Carli Dofka (100 breast) and senior Jessica Lufsey, a 1-meter diver.

"I was, like, so excited I have never stopped smiling since I got in," Johnson said between training sessions Wednesday at the Hernando Family YMCA pool.

"I worked really hard for a long time and now it finally paid off."

Dofka, reinvigorated after admitting she was burned out her freshman year, will make her fourth Finals appearance.

She earned her place in the 100-yard breast with a third-place finish, but not with out some adventure.

"I thought I wasn't going to make it," she said. "I was so nervous. I did the fly and I was seeded fifth going into breast, which is not very good."

The top three finishers in each individual event _ plus at-large swimmers determined by time _ qualify for the Finals. The top four relay teams plus at-larges qualify.

Matt Barry went to the Finals as a freshman before concentrating on club swimming last season.

After taking much of this summer off, he is anxious to "swim at night," meaning he will have advanced to the final heats in his events.

"Swimming at night is kind of in your mind-set. It's cool," he said. "The last real big meet I went to was in March, so I'm looking forward to this and kind of anxious about that big-meet atmosphere."

Springstead's girls, which upset Crystal River for the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference team title, were buoyed by several strong performances at the district meet.

"I was really impressed with Ashley," Springstead coach Brian Hengesbach said of Martin. "She was seeded fifth in prelims and got in a real good race.

"The kids, all of them, have to be real happy with how they swam against some high-level competition."

The competition will only get better today, and Johnson hopes a recommitment to her old diet will help her improve her times.

"My mom has been getting me a lot of health food," she said. "A lot of fruit and meat for protein. I usually eat pretty healthy, but I slacked off this year. I have school and just a little bit of time before I go to college at night, so I've been eating a lot of fast food.

"Subway is so expensive. I guess I should just go home where it's for free."

Johnson knows a lean chicken breast probably will not be enough to overcome her 38th seed, but that does not seem to bother her.

"I don't think I will do anything spectacular, but I'm going to better my time and do the best I can," she said.

"I do realize the private school kids have an advantage with all the benefits they get, but that should just make us better having to compete against them."

_ Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1407. Send e-mail to brantsptimes.com.

STATE MEET

WHEN: 9 a.m. Saturday

WHERE: Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex (501 Seabreeze Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale)

WHO: Eight swimmers from Springstead and Hernando qualified.

QUALIFERS

TM EVENT SD

Matt Barry Spr. 100 breast 7

50 free 18

Sarah Barry Spr. 200 IM 20

100 breast 16

Ashley Martin Spr. 100 back 32

Springstead 200 medley 33

Springstead 400 free 33

Carli Dofka Her. 100 breast 18

Kennah Johnson Her. 100 free 38

Jessica Lufsey Her. 1M dive 7

_ Compiled by Brant James.

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