Coach Pleased With Rebuilding Gators
FORT PIERCE - Land O'Lakes girls coach Robin Hilgenberg, as wet as she was, had little else to be unhappy about. Her Gators' season coming to an end Friday night in a steady rain at the Class 2A-Region 2 swimming and diving championships. But for a team in transition, Hilgenberg felt good about her team's season. 'We lost some strong swimmers to the new high school Sunlake,' Hilgenberg said. 'But our girls more than exceeded our expectations this season. We lost one dual meet; we ended up second in our district. Our girls came in and have done very well. Now we need some faster freestylers.'Land O'Lakes scored 297 points in the 2A-District 5 championships, with Lecanto scoring 317 points to win. The Gators claimed just 12 points on Friday, something that didn't surprise Hilgenberg. 'Our depth is stronger than a lot of other programs' depth,' she said. 'It doesn't carry us through when we get to this level, but it carries us through our district and dual meets. Our weakest swimmer is still better than most.' Stephanie Allen was the only one of seven Gators to reach the finals, and her finals time of 1:14.87 fell short of her qualifying time of 1:13.57. Still, the sophomore had a busy meet. She swam anchor on Land O'Lakes' consolation relays in the 400 free and the 200 IM. That 400 free relay featured four underclassmen - Allen, Karley Nelson, Kelsey McCullough and Kelsey Whitaker. Allen will be the program's top returning swimmer after winning the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke at district. 'Stephanie Allen had a very good season individually,' Hilgenberg said. 'She's a very valuable swimmer. She really didn't meet her expectations Friday because she didn't qualify for state.' Now Hilgenberg's hope is that some of the returning swimmers can reach Allen's level and provide her with more regional and state participants. So Hilgenberg kept working, even as her girls swam in the consolation of the 400 freestyle relay. After Nelson's opening leg - in which the sophomore shaved two seconds off her career-best in a 100 free - a smile crept across Hilgenberg's face. 'I think I just found my freestyler for next year,' Hilgenberg said.