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Bella Kirkpatrick, Holy Names
Time is what mattered most to Kirkpatrick at last week's Class 2A, Region 3 meet.
The Academy of the Holy Names senior wanted to surpass — and swim close to — her best times in the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke.
Kirkpatrick took second in the 100 fly in 58.46 and won the 100 back in 1:00.23. She also was on the winning 200 medley relay (1:52.43) and second-place 400 free relay (3:40.71).
Based on her times, Kirkpatrick is seeded ninth in both individual events heading into this week's Class 2A state meet. If she swims faster, she moves into the top eight and the finals.
"I'm happy with how I did last week because I came close to all my best times," she said. "I've been working hard because this is my last season, and this is the last time I'll be swimming with a lot of these girls, some of whom I've known since I was 6 years old. It's sad, but there are also so many good memories."
As one of the veterans, Kirkpatrick has worked with some of the younger swimmers, including Ashlin Cannella, the younger sister of Cailin, who died from bone cancer last month. At the region meet, Ashlin finished fourth in the 100 fly and third in the 100 back.
"Ashlin has become my pool buddy," Kirkpatrick said. "We swim the same events and we talk all the time of how we did."
The team has rallied around the Cannellas. After placing second overall at last year's state meet, Holy Names swimmers drove to Cailin's house and presented her with the team trophy. Jaguars coach Bill Shaffer gave Cailin a medal.
"We want to finish second, even try to win this year," Kirkpatrick said. "That's a big motivator for us — do it again for Cailin."
Sam Sands, Jesuit
It would have been hard for Sands not to be a swimmer. He grew up in an aquatic family. His mother, Brenna, swims at the Master's level and gives lessons at a YMCA in Tampa. Older brother Will was a standout for Jesuit and now is a lacrosse goalie at Penn State.
Sam did more than tag along. He was in the pool with his family.
Now he is immersed in the sport.
Years of practice helped Sam develop into a champion freestyler. Last year, he finished fourth in the 50-yard free and fifth in the 100 free at the Class 2A meet. He also teamed with Will on the winning 200 free relay and fourth-place 400 free relay teams.
This year, Sam is a senior captain. His aim is to do better than just placing at state.
"I'm trying to win," Sam said.
He started on that goal last week, finishing third in both the 50 and 100 free, as well as swimming anchor legs on the winning 200 and 400 free relay teams. That helped The Tigers win their 10th region team title.
Jesuit has the depth to nab a state team title. It would not only be the first for a Hillsborough County boys team since 1946 but would complete the emotional task of winning for Cailin Cannella.
"That would be a tremendous honor if we were able to do that for her," Sam said.