Two Highlands County schools sent a handful of divers to the FHSAA state finals over the weekend, as Sebring and Avon Park competed in the Class 2A-Region 3 swimming and diving meet at Dunedin High School.
The Blue Streaks' Sara Bohan finished second overall in the girls 1 meter diving event with 313 points. Bohan and the region champion were the only girls out of a five-person field to break the 300 point threshold.
Two divers from Avon Park qualified as well, with Domonic Hutchins leading the way for the Red Devils, finishing second overall with 371.95 points, while Josh Gaidos placed fifth with 310.80 points. Hutchins is the No. 2 seed heading into state and Gaidos is seeded 16th.
The state finals will be held in Stuart at the Sailfish Splashpark Aquatic Athletics Center on Saturday.
"Josh will probably place better than where's he's seeded," said Avon Park coach Shane Wirries. "He was so worried about doing well at regionals that he just over thought it."
Wirries noted that FHSAA rules changes this year benefitted worked in the Red Devils favor.
"I started with both of them last year, and Domonic made it last year while Josh did not," Wirries added. "They used to just take the top eight finalists. Josh finished ninth in the regionals last year - even with the minimum threshold of 280 points - and still didn't qualify. But they changed that for this year."
And now Hutchins is ready to take advantage of his second appearance on the big stage.
"Domonic did O.K.," Wirries said. "At that point I think he was just glad to be there. He was in the top 20, but this year I think we have a good chance to finish in the top 8 and win a medal."
The Streaks and Devils also got solid performances from their swim teams, but neither managed to qualify for state. Sebring's boys finished ninth (111) and the girls placed sixth (122), while the Avon Park boys sneaked into seventh (124) and the girls came in 18th (34).
The Streaks top two team finishes came in the boys and girls 400 yard freestyle relay events. Gabriella Dion, Cassady Hitt, Rachel Todd, and Emma Hill paced the girls to a fourth place finish in 4:21.80, while Jack Edgemon, Jacob Livingston, Samuel Smith, and Tevin Bullard guided the boys into fifth at 3:38.65. Stellar individual performances came from Sebring's Kaitlyn Smith and Avon Park's Koy McGrath, who placed eighth and 18th, respectively, in the girls 100 freestyle and the boys 50 freestyle with times of 1:02.86 and 24.85.
Meanwhile, Lake Placid was also competing in a regional meet over the weekend, as the Green Dragons spent their Saturday in Orlando at Lake Highland Prep swimming in the Class 1A-Region 2 meet. The Dragon boys finished fifth with 136 points, and improvement from last year's sixth place finish, while the girls placed ninth with 72 points. No swimmers advanced to state.
There were no divers representing Lake Placid at the meet, either, as the Dragons failed to have any of them qualify at regionals.
But Gang Green did get a wealth of great times from their swimmers. Courtney Sapp, Rachel Shattler, Hali Pollard, and Taylor Eden pushed the girls to their best team finish, as they came in sixth in the 200 medley relay with a time of 2:12.45. The Dragon boys had their best finish in the 200 medley as well, with Dalton Lambert, Andrew Brown, Jr., Travis Russell, and Travis Peeples combining their talents for a fourth place finish in 1:49.92.
Individually, Brown, Jr. paced the boys with a sixth place finish in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:03.90. The girls best individual performance came from Anne Weber-Callahan, who finished 13th in the 50 freestyle in 26.49.
"Nobody made it to state, but we did pretty good," said Lake Placid coach Tom Creel. "We had quite a few personal bests. Travis (Russell) and Camille (Shattler) both had personal bests, and they'll both be coming back next year."
The Dragons have been dominant all year, but swim in one of the toughest regions in the state.
"It is extremely tough," Creel said. "It's difficult to get people there. But we had a good time. As a coach you want to do a little better each year, and we're whittling away it."