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Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

Youngsters Ducking Into The High School Limelight

TAMPA - Even swimmers endure rookie hazing. For Plant freshman Rebecca Werdine, that meant her elders made her squat like a duck and make her way around the pool after practice. "We had to waddle around the pool deck," Werdine said. "It was hard. My legs were so sore. It was more hard than it was embarrassing." Apart from making her waddle around the pool like a duck, Werdine said the seniors have been very accepting. Posting times like she has so early in the season goes a long way toward her gaining acceptance.
Werdine is among several freshman swimmers who own some of the top girls times in Hillsborough County. Spoto's Giorgie Graves has the fourth-best times in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly, events that are led by two of the state's top senior swimmers Grace Fredlake from Tampa Prep and Plant's Meg Anderson. Wharton's pair of freshmen, Danielle Albright and Megan Smith, have been major contributors this season. Albright owns the county's third-best time in the 200 freestyle and is a member of the second-fastest 400 free relay and third-fastest 200 free relay teams. Smith played a part in turning in the county's fastest 200 medley relay time and is second in the 100 breaststroke. As for Werdine, she helped her Panthers team upset Sickles last week. She also has the county's third-fastest time in the 100 breast, the fourth-best in the 50 free and is a member of the fastest 400 free relay and the second-fastest 200 free relay teams. "I've been surprisingly fast," Werdine said. "I've been surprising myself with some of my times. Hopefully, later on, I can make some major drops and get ready for districts, regions and state." Werdine, 14, has lofty goals for herself and for her team, which includes turning in All-America times in the relays and making the finals of her individual events at state. Given the start to her freshman season, where she has set the bar very high, those goals seem very obtainable. "It's really exciting," Werdine said. "Since it is my freshman year, it's just really great to be up there with the older swimmers." MEET OF THE YEAR: Check out the boys Honor Roll times. They should drastically change next week after Sickles and Newsome square off Tuesday night at the Bob Sierra YMCA. In a rematch of the City Relays battle, where Sickles defeated Newsome, the boys events will feature some of the top swimmers, not only in the county, but in the state. State champion Greg Cooke, Ryan Poteat and Conor Swanson lead Sickles, while state champion Jason Taylor, who was recently named to USA Swimming's national junior team, Jacob Bukaweski and Brandon Crawford lead Newsome. Both teams have serious talent, but look for the deepest team to come out on top. "Depth is usually what most high school meets comes down to," Sickles coach Scott Parlett said. "Everybody's got their stud, everybody's got their star. That's meat and potatoes. It's the gravy that makes the meat delicious. "It's the kids that you pay attention to in the middle lanes, they're the ones to make the difference." The girls competition is also a rematch of the City Relays. Sickles topped Newsome by a mere 18 points. The Gryphons lost their first meet last week to Plant, but were without one of their top swimmers in Katie Westbrook.

Reporter Katherine Smith can be reached at (813) 731-8025 or ksmith@tampatrib.com.