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District swimming: Plant girls get a boost from schedule change

Plant's Morgan Tankersley during the at the FHSAA District 5 Class 4A Swimming & Diving Championships held at Bobby Hicks Pool in Tampa on Wednesday, October 28, 2015.
Plant's Morgan Tankersley during the at the FHSAA District 5 Class 4A Swimming & Diving Championships held at Bobby Hicks Pool in Tampa on Wednesday, October 28, 2015.
Published Oct. 28, 2015

TAMPA — Plant's Morgan Tankersley faced a dilemma in the weeks leading up to the Class 4A, District 5 swim meet.

Tankersley, the defending state runnerup in the 200-yard freestyle and 500 free, was one of 68 swimmers picked for the USA Swimming National Select Camp, held Thursday-Sunday at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

The dates of the camp originally conflicted the district meet, which swimmers have to participate in to qualify for regionals and be eligible to swim at states in individual events.

Turns out, Tankersley was able to do both.

The Panthers worked out an agreement with the other district teams to move the 4A-5 meet to Wednesday, a day before Tankersley was scheduled to fly out to Colorado Springs.

As expected, Tankersley was dominant in her events. The sophomore won the 200 free (1:53.29) and 500 free (5:01.45) each by comfortable margins. She also anchored the Panthers' 200 medley (1:53.39) and 200 free relays (1:42.04) to first-place finishes.

That helped Plant win the team title with 534.5 points, 255.5 ahead of Newsome.

"We were fortunate that we were able to move this meet up a few days," Panthers coach Gil Gonzales said. "The teams all agreed. It was great sportsmanship by everyone involved."

There were some drawbacks to moving the meet.

In district swimming, the top two in each event automatically advance to regionals. The remaining 24 qualifiers in each event are decided by time. The 4A-5 meet was the first scheduled in the region, which meant swimmers had no other times to gauge in terms of qualifying.

"It's kind of hard to get up and swim fast in the middle of the week when most of these kids are probably used to being in physics right now," Plant boys coach Royce Brown said. "It didn't necessarily matter the place. It was more of going up against a clock and just trying to go as fast as you can."

There were some benefits, too. By swimming days ahead of everyone else, the 4A-5 teams have 10 days to taper before getting ready for the region meet, which is considered the fastest in the state.

The Panther girls all swam fast, gobbling up points as they left others in their wake. Plant placed in the top three in every event and took first in the 400 free relay in 3:44.20.

Durant's Katie Vasiloff, the defending state champion in the 100 fly, won her signature event in 58.10. The sophomore also took first in the 50 free (24.80).

Plant City's Erin Schulte was the other girls swimmer who was a champion in multiple events. The sophomore was first in the 200 IM (2:13.96) and 100 breast (1:10.55).

Strawberry Crest's Celismar Guzman, another sophomore who did well at the Florida Swimming Pool Association meet last month, won the 100 back (57.58) and was second in the 100 fly (58.57).

Wiregrass Ranch had one champion, junior Julia Blankenship in diving with 346.40 points. The Bulls' Madison Conway, a senior who recently committed to Florida, was second in the 100 back (58.71) and third in the 100 fly (58.70). Her sister, Lauren, a sophomore, took second in the 200 IM (2:15.38) and third in the 100 breast (1:11.69).

On the boys side, Plant outscored Bloomingdale 449-329.5 for the team title.

Paxton Rhoads, a junior, led the Panthers by taking first in the 100 breast (1:00.79) and swimming legs on the winning 200 medley (1:53.39) and 200 free relays (1:42.04). Plant diver Dylan Power, a senior, won and set the school record for points scored with 580.90.

Strawberry Crest's Zane Richardson, a sophomore, was a champion in the 200 free (1:48.66) and 500 free (4:48.91) and swam the anchor leg on the winning 400 free relay (3:30.65). Durant's Sean White, a senior, took first in the 200 IM (2:00.83) and 100 free (47.92).

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