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DQ can't derail Clearwater star

3A BOYS

Grant Johnson took high honors twice Thursday night. Then he took the high road.

The Clearwater senior won the 100-yard freestyle in a dogfight and the 100 backstroke over his best friend.

But in the night's final event, the 400 free relay, the top-seeded Tornadoes were disqualified when Johnson was ruled to have worn an illegal cap. Rules prohibit caps with more than one small non-team logo, and Johnson's had two.

"It was just a simple mistake I've got to admit, I was very upset. But you know what? We did great."

No rule could deny that.

Clearwater had the best finish among area boys teams. The Tornadoes claimed fifth place with 123 points, 14 ahead of sixth-place Seminole. Sarasota won for the second straight year with 230 points.

Seminole's Luis Leon provided the first thrill of the night with a win in the 50 free. The senior decided to swim the event only at the beginning of the season, yet earned the top seed for the final and won in 21.45 seconds, .14 of a second ahead of Sarasota's Spencer Maglich.

"It feels good. It feels complete," said Leon, who swam under the watchful eye of his father, a USA Swimming official. "The 50 free was never my event, then this year out of nowhere I did it."

Twenty minutes later, Leon finished second in the 100 butterfly, then in the 100 free, Johnson turned in his first title effort. He claimed the top seed with a morning preliminary effort of 46.64, then cut .2 of a second off of that to hold off a charging Sam Holtzman of Miami Palmetto.

"I knew I had to do the finish, and finishes aren't really my style," Johnson said. "I just reached down as far as I could and I got it."

In the 100 backstroke, he was not a district champion, as teammate Jay Carpenter edged him by .18 of a second last week. But in the rematch, Johnson got revenge, winning in 52.42 to Carpenter's 52.59.

At the end of the night, the best friends planned on helping a 400 free relay team to victory, but Johnson was cited for his infraction immediately after his leadoff leg.

"It's a stupid rule, and the ref said so," Clearwater coach Dick Smith. "But a rule's a rule."

Johnson said he usually picks up a random cap moments before a race, and this time simply did not realize the one he had.

"It got to me for a little bit," he said. "But now I realize that's not what matters."

In the morning diving competition, St. Petersburg's Ryan Troup placed fifth. Palm Harbor University's Mark Moss finished seventh.

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