Sunlake welcomes the spotlight
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.