Always a freestyler, Palm Harbor junior Brittany Nauta discovered this summer she's not the best at long distances.
Her coach told her to try the backstroke, and it turned out to not be such a bad idea, especially after Nauta won the 100-yard event at the Class 3A state finals Friday at the North County Aquatic Center.
"I'm not used to swimming it yet and I didn't know who the competitors were," Nauta said. "I didn't know if I should be expecting somebody to come back fast."
Nauta's win helped Palm Harbor finish third. Seminole was fourth. Lake Brantley won the title and St. Thomas Aquinas, which has nine 2A state titles, came in second. Northeast was 14th, East Lake 19th, Pinellas Park 20th, Clearwater 36th and St. Petersburg 42nd.
Palm Harbor's 200 medley relay of Colleen Bauza, Jessica Deng, Candace Thornburg and Nauta remained undefeated. Deng finished second in the 100 breaststroke, and Nauta took second in what she thought would be her fastest event, the 100 freestyle.
Pinellas Park junior Ashley Gorman wasn't concerned with the 50 freestyle.
"You're out so fast, you never know what you're going to get," Gorman said. "Whatever place I got, I was fine with."
She tied for second and won the 100 butterfly.
For the past three years, Seminole's 200 freestyle relay was seeded first after preliminaries. Three years ago it finished third and last year second. This year Katie Metka, Lana Douglass, Leeann Laing and Teresa Tessier won for the Warhawks.
Those four took third in the 400 freestyle relay, breaking the school record by more than a second.
For the first time in Seminole's history, the Warhawks' boys and girls teams placed in the top 10 three years in a row. The Seminole boys, who finished ninth, were the top Pinellas school. St. Thomas Aquinas won its seventh straight boys title. Northeast finished 15th, followed by Palm Harbor and St. Petersburg. Clearwater was 19th and East Lake 39th.
Brenno Varanda, a junior at Northeast, won the 100 breaststroke in 58.66 and broke the school record he'd been chasing for three years.
"I never thought I would be a state champion," Varanda said. "I'm just super happy."
Varanda also was fourth in the 200 individual medley.
Clearwater senior Jay Carpenter had the fastest times in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke going into the state meet, but finished second in both.
"I came into this expecting to do my best times. I found out you can't do it all of the time," Carpenter said.
Northeast senior Nikki Jackson finished 12th in diving. Jackson, who didn't qualify for the state meet last year, was the highest placed diver from the county.
Cougar takes sixth
Editor's note: This article was omitted from some editions of Friday's Times.
SEBASTIAN _ It's hard to get pumped up to swim against the best in the country. That's what Dunedin senior Kassie Schmidt had to do in the Class 2A meet at North County Aquatic Center.
Schmidt was the only county swimmer to advance to the individual finals Thursday, but she had to compete against Delray Beach Atlantic's Rhi Jeffrey, the national high school record holder in the 200- and 100-yard freestyle.
"It was very intimidating," Schmidt said.
"It feels kind of like an honor swimming next to her and knowing she's so fast. It gives you a lot of confidence."
Swimming in the lane beside Jeffrey in the 100, Schmidt finished sixth. She was eighth in the 200.
The Countryside girls had a disappointing meet, finishing 13th. Fort Myers won its first title. Satellite and Atlantic finished second and third, respectively. Dunedin was 16th and Largo 25th.
The Cougars qualified for the finals in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.
Countryside had a rough start, with the 200 medley relay finishing seventh. The 400 freestyle relay was fourth.
"That was the best thing of the night," Stephanie Widmer said. Sara Michaels, Katie Kastes, Widmer and Kimberly Iaquinto each had personal bests in the relay.
The Cougars boys didn't qualify for the finals and finished tied for 23rd with Fort Walton Beach and Belleview. Charlotte Punta Gorda won its first title. Niceville and Bishop Kenny rounded out the top three.
Tampa Bay Tech had its best finish in school history at fourth, and Plant tied for eighth with Fort Myers.
Countryside diver Cody Dodds finished fourth. Largo's Catherine Smolen and Amanda Smolen were fourth and fifth, respectively.