The senior appears poised to defend his Class 1A state title in the 200 free, which he won in 1 minute, 38.20 seconds. Skjaerpe also could win a title in the 100 butterfly, where he placed second last year in 49.08. Then again, he’s capable of winning in several other events. He’s that good.
Maddie Hess, Newsome
The junior had one of the best individual sophomore seasons in the history of Hillsborough County, winning Class 3A state titles in the 100 freestyle (50.88 seconds) and 100 backstroke (56.01), and helping the Wolves win a state title in the 200 medley relay. Hess is in fine form once again and more state titles might be coming her way.
Alex Donahue, Plant
The junior, returns to defend her Class 3A title in the 100 breaststroke, which she won last year in a blistering 1:03.81. Donahue will also help the Panthers in several other events and relays, which could add to her state medal totals.
Top girls teams
Newsome, Academy of the Holy Names, Plant, Berkeley Prep and Tampa Prep, not necessarily in that order. It will be tough for Newsome to repeat last year’s phenomenal second-place team finish at the Class 3A state meet. But rest assured, this year’s Wolves are talented and among the state’s top teams. That said, so are AHN, Plant and Tampa Prep. AHN coach Bill Shaffer said the Jags might have a shot at a state team title because they have no less than seven possible state medalists and a couple of possible state champions (see 4x100 relay). Dual meets between these teams should be interesting.
Top boys teams
Berkeley Prep, Jesuit, Tampa Prep, Newsome, King and Plant, not necessarily in that order. Berkeley Prep coach Kevin Rosepapa said the Bucs had one of their best summers of workouts in many years and are in position to win their fifth consecutive region title. Individually, the Bucs return junior Graham Olney (eighth in 100 backstroke at state in 54.73), Harrison Keane and Keating Mosher, all of whom could medal at state. Plant’s Kyle Kimura, Tyler Heath and Paxton Rhodes are also worthy of keeping an eye on.
Girls 4x100 free relays
The past three years, Academy’s 4x100 team has finished first, first and second at the state meet, each year lowering its time. The Jags return Julia Cogdill, Olivia Kirkpatrick, Konner Brewer and Clare Fleming, who could combine to drop the school record for the fourth year in a row. Plant, Newsome and Tampa Prep could give Academy a run for its money.
The Florida High School Athletic Association increased the number of classifications from three to four this year, giving more state meet hopes to some (Academy) and not as much to others, including Tampa Prep and Berkeley Prep, which remain in Class 1A with Jacksonville Bolles and a host of other national powerhouses. Overall, the top three classifications — 2A, 3A and 4A — should feature more state medals for Hillsborough County.
Plant sophomore Max Jenkins, who medaled last year, leads a host of Hillsborough County divers capable of grabbing top-eight finishes at state. Several Berkeley Prep boys, including Jesse Potts, Hugo Rapp and Anthony Rauft-Lomano — all of whom finished in the top 20 last year — could finish high at state. On the girls’ side, keep an eye on Berkeley Prep’s Stephanie Punzak and Nikki Potts, who qualified last year for the state meet.
It doesn’t mean much in the run for the state meets, but it’s competitive, tremendous fun and all Hillsborough County teams participate. The spirit award, featuring coaches’ dressing in tutus and various face paints, is almost as competitive as the racing in the water.
This Sept. 28 meet is a good midseason measuring stick for many swimmers and teams vying for state meet glory. Finish high at this meet and a solid state meet is almost assured to follow.