CLEARWATER — Because of strength in numbers, Palm Harbor University was an overwhelming favorite to win its 23rd straight girls team title at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference swim meet.
But for the Hurricanes to sweep the titles, their boys team had to produce before the finals even started. PHU coach Lisa Bitting said it was imperative that the bottom of her lineup swim exceptionally well in the preliminaries.
The boys did just that Saturday, with many swimmers who were projected to be in the consolations advancing to the finals in their individual events. That meant they would finish no worse than in eighth place and gobble up much-needed points.
It all worked out to perfection. PHU’s girls scored 460 points, 105 more than Countryside. The Hurricanes won their fourth straight boys conference title by outscoring the Cougars 401-304.5.
“I knew we had some pretty solid depth on the girls side,” Bitting said. “But it was going to be close with the boys. We had to swim well in the morning and they all were phenomenal.”
Individually, Countryside’s girls had an exceptional meet. The Cougars won seven events and had a pair of swimmers take home multiple titles. Abby Licht was a champion in the 200-yard freestyle (one minute, 53.14 seconds) and 500 free (4:57.53). Summer Cardwell finished first in the 200 individual medley (2:08.81) and 100 butterfly (55.57).
Countryside’s other winner was Abby Taugner in the 50 free (24.87).
Licht, Cardwell and Taugner joined Megan German on the winning 400 free relay (3:37.44). In the 200 medley relay, Licht and Cardwell teamed with Brooke Gregory and Drue Yarmolowitz to take first in 1:50.14.
PHU’s lone individual champion was Katelyn Barkman in the 100 breast (1:07.09). She teamed with Avery Kelly, Maya Okuyama and Kelsey Thurin on the first-place 200 free relay (1:40.43).
The other girls winners were Osceola’s Clara Williams in the 100 back (56.82) and Tarpon Springs’ Amanda Silva in the 100 free (54.79).
On the boys side, the Hurricanes had three individual champions — Denis Dapo in the 50 free (21.42), Liam Kugler in the 100 back (52.09) and Luke Williams in the 500 free (4:32.86).
Dapo, Kugler and Williams joined Jake Burns on the winning 200 medley relay team (1:36.39).
In the 400 free relay, Burns, Kugler and Williams joined Alex Tsai to take first in 3:13.55.
St. Petersburg’s Lukas Cote was the only boy who took home multiple titles in individual events, winning the 200 free in 1:39.88 and the 100 free in 45.64. His brother, Ben, won the 200 IM in 1:55.44.
The other boys individual champions were Northeast’s Victor Rosado in the 100 fly (51.20) and Countryside’s Ryan Rosal in the 100 breast (59.74).
Seminole’s 200 free relay team of Zach Greenwood, Andrew Billitto, Logan Thornsberry and Drew Meyers won in a meet record 1:25.94.