Sun­lake wel­comes the spot­light

Tampa Bay Times - - High Schools - BY SCOTT PURKS Times Cor­re­spon­dent

STU­ART — The feel­ing was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent for Sun­lake’s girls at this year’s Class 3A state swim meet at Sail­fish Splash­park Aquatic Ath­let­ics Cen­ter.

In­stead of jump­ing into the spot­light like they did last year, the spot­light fol­lowed them into Fri­day’s cham­pi­onships: Lots of folks wanted to see if the Sea­hawks could de­fend a cou­ple of in­di­vid­ual and re­lay state ti­tles, and maybe even add a lit­tle more gold in the process. No wor­ries.

Well, al­most no wor­ries.

There was a bit of con­cern the past few weeks af­ter flu-like ill­nesses hit a cou­ple of the top ath­letes, in­clud­ing ju­nior star Chloe Grimme and a top re­lay con­trib­u­tor Hanna Bar­ton.

“We had to take some time off (train­ing af­ter districts a few weeks ago) be­cause we were feel­ing pretty bad,” Grimme said. “But I just said, ‘Okay, there is time and all we can do is our best.’ ”

It all turned out pretty darn good.

Grimme again stepped up and ham­mered away at vic­to­ries, de­fend­ing her state ti­tle in the 50 free (23.04 sec­onds) and help­ing the 200 med­ley re­lay to a tie for first with Am­ber Ewald, Elise Bal­lash and Bar­ton. Be­hind a fu­ri­ous fi­nal leg of 22.43 sec­onds by Grimme, the Sea­hawks fin­ished in 1:46.03, touch­ing the wall in synch with Creek­side.

“I knew (Creek­side’s) lead was pretty big (per­haps as much as three sec­onds) but I thought I still might have a chance,” Grimme said. “So I just put my head down and went for it.”

As the night wore on, how­ever, Grimme ad­mit­ted to feel­ing a lit­tle fa­tigue, per­haps a resid­ual ef­fect from the ill­ness.

Be­fore her 100-free fi­nal, Grimme said her legs were shak­ing and she had to re­ally push to fin­ish in 50.43, good for sec­ond.

Shortly af­ter, Grimme came back with Tori Eurell, Bar­ton and Alex Sprague to take sec­ond in the 200 free re­lay (1:37.09), which they won last year.

To­ward the end of the night, Elise Bal­lash added an­other medal to the Sea­hawks’ haul, fin­ish­ing third in the 100 breast­stroke in 1:03.68, only 0.32 sec­onds be­hind the win­ner.

Al­most per­fect

Stand­ing next to the div­ing well around 4 p.m., Osce­ola sopho­more Ca­rina Lu­mia was beam­ing, proud, happy and thrilled.

Of course she was: She had just won the Class 3A state div­ing ti­tle with 479.10 points, eight ahead of the run­nerup — the place Lu­mia fin­ished last year.

Re­grets on Fri­day? Maybe just a lit­tle frus­trated on the fourth of her 11 dives, a re­verse one and one-half, which she said she fin­ished just a lit­tle “over.”

“But other than (the fourth dive) I would say it was a re­ally, re­ally great day,” said Lu­mia, whose point to­tal was two ahead of her all-time best. “I think it re­ally helped that I was here last year. I kind of knew what to ex­pect.”

Dixie Hollins ju­nior McKenna O’Reilly placed ninth (386.35) and Osce­ola se­nior Kay­lyn Goehl placed 10th (383.95).

Youth move­ment

Some of the best per­for­mances from Tampa Bay came from the younger par­tic­i­pants. Osce­ola sopho­more Clara Wil­liams fin­ished fourth in the 100 but­ter­fly (56.30) and grabbed sil­ver in the 100 back­stroke in 56.44. Free­dom fresh­man Michelle Mor­gan took third in the 200 IM (2:04.88) and third in the 500 free (4:51.38). “I was lit­tle ner­vous be­cause I had never been to a state meet be­fore,” she said. “But dur­ing the pre­lims ev­ery­body was so nice and it made me feel a lot more com­fort­able. It was a great day.”

No­ta­bles

Free­dom’s girls 200 med­ley team of Mor­gan, Abi­gail Leisure, Han­nah Labohn and Carly Jo­erin placed sixth in 1:49.41 and sev­enth in the 400 free in 3:35.14. … Free­dom’s Leisure and Jo­erin fin­ished fifth and sev­enth in the 200 IM in 2:08.40 and 2:12.33, re­spec­tively. Leisure also placed fourth in the 100 breast­stroke in 1:04.97. … Clear­wa­ter’s Grace Moli­naro took fifth in the 100 fly in 57.21. … Osce­ola’s Joseph Gonzalez took eighth in the 100 fly in 52.41. … Mitchell’s Car­son Kruger fin­ished sixth in the 500 free in 4:36.23. … Semi­nole’s Andrew Mey­ers placed sev­enth in the 500 free in 4:36.74. … Semi­nole’s Zach Green­wood placed sixth in the 100 back in 53.40. … Sun­lake’s Jay Jay Fon­notto was eighth in the 100 back in 53.90.

Pho­tos by SCOTT PURKS | Spe­cial to the Times

The 200 med­ley re­lay team from Sun­lake crams onto the first­place podium with Creek­side af­ter the teams tie for gold. With a blaz­ing fi­nal 50 free by Chloe Grimme, Sun­lake fin­ishes in 1:46.03.

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