TAMPA — It appears that the move a few years ago to combine the Jesuit and Academy of the Holy Names swim practices has led to a participation boon.
Academy is busting at the seams with 59 girls swimming, or more than 10 percent of the school’s entire high school population. Jesuit, meantime, is at 36 boys, one of the highest numbers the Tigers have had in years.
The good news for coach Bill Shaffer, who coaches both Jesuit and Academy, is that talent and spirit are also way up.
Shaffer has everything from state title contenders — including Jesuit’s Austin Sellers in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM — to numerous scorers at the state meet.
The “state scorer” list for Academy includes Alex Nuyianes (fifth at last year’s Class 2A state meet in the 100 breast and sixth in the 200 IM), Olivia Kirkpatrick (fourth at state in the 50 free and fifth in the 100 back) and up to 10 more serious possibilities.
Jesuit, meanwhile, isn’t quite as deep, but the quality at the top looks just as good.
Sellers looks so strong he might be capable of setting a state record in the 100 breast.
“That’s how good (Sellers’) training has been this year,” Shaffer said. “He is focused.”
Add in talent such as Shaffer’s son, Tommy Shaffer (medal contender in the 50 and 100 free) along with versatile freshman Sam Sands and returning state qualifiers Byrne Litsghi (backstroke specialist) and diver Dart Hutson, and the Tigers look like a top-five if not a top-three team at the Class 2A state meet.
Academy would need everything to fall into place for a state team title, but anything less than a runner-up spot might feel like a disappointment.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Shaffer said. “But things do look good right now.”