By Sharon Robb
STUART, November 15, 2020—Pine Crest’s challenging journey through the pandemic ended with a girls state title and boys runner-up finish Saturday at the FHSAA State 2A Swimming and Diving Championship at Sailfish Splash Waterpark.
The Panthers won their second consecutive girls state title and 29th overall with 338 points ahead of Gulliver Prep with 186.5.
Tampa Jesuit captured the boys team title with 277 points ahead of defending champion Pine Crest with 185. In 2017, Jesuit became the first Hillsborough County School to capture a state championship in 71 years, and did it again in 2018.
“It is difficult to compare this year to last but I would say the one that gives me more satisfaction is this year,” said Pine Crest head coach Mariusz Podkoscielny said. “It was the hurdles and amount of stress. Here we are driving to states and every time your phone rings you are thinking to yourself ‘is this it.’ It’s very difficult to look past today when you are dealing with all of that. Today could be the last time we swim. When we went to regions, it was the first time in a long time we suit up everybody. Even though we didn’t have to, it was just because we didn’t know if we would get an opportunity to go to states.
“There was such a relief after prelims. The kids were finally starting to see that this was really happening and we might actually end the season and end it well.
“When you go through the whole season with such an emotional roller coaster, when it’s all said and done, I don’t know how to figure out the emotion–the relief that you did it or excitement and joy that you did it. I think it’s more a relief than anything else.”
In an emotionally-charged meet, the girls team was led by double winner Julia Podkoscielny and winning 200-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle relays. All but one swimmer scored for the Panthers in the championship final for the first time in 15 years.
Podkoscielny won the 200-yard individual medley in 1:59.14 and 100-yard backstroke in 54.29, both automatic All-American times.
Podkoscielny was also a member of the winning 200-yard medley relay that won in an automatic All-American time of 1:44.00 with teammates Riley Botting, Esther Lin and Hanna Smith.
Podkoscielny, Isabella Chambers, Riley Botting and Hanna Smith won the 200-yard freestyle relay in an All-American consideration time of 1:35.60.
Smith was also second in the 100-yard freestyle in 51.99 and third in the 50-yard freestyle in 24.01. Botting was second in the 500-yard freestyle in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:53.95, an All-American consideration time, and second in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:04.61.
The Panthers were also able to win it without their 400-yard freestyle relay that was disqualified in the district meet.
Podkoscielny was forced to quarantine for more than a week after being exposed to a classmate who tested positive for COVID-19. She tested negative but per school pandemic protocol had to train in a private pool away from her teammates leading up to the state meet where she swam a grueling eight races in one day as opposed to four at district and region’s timed finals. Saturday was the first day she was allowed to be with the team.
Just competing at the state meet was a major accomplishment for Pine Crest which thought its 2020 high school season was cancelled because of the pandemic. The Panthers were given a reprieve by its school administration and allowed to compete in district, region and state meets after holding time trials at its own pool for qualifying times. Because of pandemic uncertainty, the swimmers competed like every meet was their last.
“Words can’t express my feelings, gratitude…lucky,” Podkoscielny said. “We started the season knowing that we weren’t going to have a season.
“We were given a green light to go only to districts, regions and states and then we were getting swimmers going into quarantine and missing out. We had a lot of those little things happening.
“We were walking on eggshells trying to get to the finish line. At any point in time this could have ended. Being able to do it and being able to do it well is just amazing.”
The defending champion boys team, after graduating several key scorers, finished second behind team top scorers Joshua Hanks and diver Kevin Mendez.
Mendez made history capturing a record fifth consecutive 1-meter state title with 560.45. He was the only diver to crack the 500-point barrier. He was tied for first going into the meet with the most diving titles. Pine Crest had four divers finish in the Top 11 (Mendez, Allen Levitis, fifth, Danyal Ghadiali, seventh, and Ashton Jacobi, 11th.
Hanks won the 100-yard breaststroke in 55.65, an automatic All-American time, and second in the 50-yard freestyle in 20.61, an All-American consideration time.
“We graduated a lot of points, three guys who scored top three in two events each and we won three relays last year,” Podkoscielny said. “We have a lot of young swimmers. It was great to have Josh for another year, he did a phenomenal job for us. And our hats off to our divers and (Coach) Janet Gabriel, who does a great job with our diving program. We are definitely in a rebuilding state so for us to finish second was phenomenal.”
Stanton Prep freshman Rylie Darkatsh won the girls 1-meter diving title with 378.70. Pine Crest picked up valuable points from runnerup Kaylee Greenberg, 370.10, Ava Anderson, third, 345.45 and Sarrah Ghadiali, eighth, 325.55.
South Florida Aquatic Club’s Anthony Robaina and Agustin Rodriguez were key to Mater Lakes Academy finishing third among boys teams, highest finish in the school’s history.
The duo were members of Mater Lakes Academy’s winning 200-yard freestyle relay that won in 1:27.84 with teammates Daniel Quijada and Ronny Rueda.
Robaina and Rodriguez were also members of the runner-up 200-yard medley relay with Anthony Martinez and Quijada that finished in 1:37.31.
American Heritage Plantation senior Joseph Lee swam back-to-back best times to finish fifth in the 100-yard butterfly in 53.77 and back-to-back best times in the 100-yard breaststroke for another fifth place in 59.39. He broke 1 minute for the first time in prelims in 59.59 and bettered it at night.
Lee and SOFLO teammate Nicolas Rossi were also members of American Heritage’s fifth place 200-yard freestyle relay.
In other SOFLO results:
Agustin Rodriguez was fifth in the 200-yard freestyle in a best time 1:42.75 and seventh in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:43.74. He finished with 26 points.
Robaina was sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke in 59.93 and 21st in the 100-yard freestyle in 49.95.
Enrique Rodriguez of Somerset was ninth in 500-yard freestyle in 4:49.34 and remains the county leader in the distance event.
Senior Juan Camilo Rivero of Monsignor Pace was 13th fastest in a best time 54.68 in the 100-yard butterfly (0.79 drop) and lowered it to 54.58. He was also 19th in the 100-yard backstroke, also a best time in 56.26 (0.94 drop).
Sophomore Sabrina Osorio-Gomez of Somerset was 21st in 2:21.87 in the 200-yard individual medley.
Somerset sophomore Sofia Osorio-Gomez was 24th in 1:05.09 in the 100-yard backstroke.
FHSAA State 2A RESULTS
GIRLS TEAM TOTALS
- Pine Crest 338, 2. Gulliver Prep 186.5, 3. Jensen Beach 177, 4. Academy of Holy Names 173, 5. Robinson 154, 6. Cape Coral 150, 7. Montverde 119, 8. Eastside 111.5, 9. Stanton 94, 10. Clay 88, 11. Rockledge 68, 12. Estero 68, 13. Arnold 60, 14. Lake Wales 40, 15. Cardinal Gibbons 36, 16. Mater Lakes 34, 17. McKeel 33, 18. Pensaola 32, 19. tie, Astronaut, Atlantic 27, 21. Bishop Kenny 25, 22. Satellite 24, 23. tie, Titusville, Eustis 23, 25. tie, Northeast, Rickards, American Heritage Plantation 21.
GIRLS INDIVIDUAL RESULTS
200-yard medley relay: 1. Pine Crest 1:44.00 AA-A (Julia Podkoscielny, Riley Botting, Esther Lin, Hanna Smith), 2. Academy of Holy Names 1:49.34, 3. Cape Coral 1:50.29, 7. Gullive Prep 1:51.82, 9. Cardinal Gibbons 1:55.15.
200-yard freestyle: 1. Blair Stoneburg, JB 1:44.63 AA-A, 2. Brooke Beede, ROB 1:52.02, 3. Claire Han, PENS 1:53.21, 9. Haley Cisewski, PC 1:52.95, time drop, 11. Lauren Balfour, PC 1:59.08, time drop.
200-yard individual medley: 1. Julia Podkoscielny, PC 1:59.14 AA-A, 2. Sara Stotler, CLAY 2:01.32 AA-A, 3. Cassidy Neely, HNMS 2:06.48, 10. Lara Jones, PC 2:13.15, time drop, 14. Sara Lin, PC 2:15.69, time drop, 21. Sabrina Osorio-Gomez, SOM 2:21.87.
50-yard freestyle: 1. Mary Hardman, LW 23.88, 2. Chloe Hernandez, GP 23.90, 3. Hanna Smith, PC 24.01, 4. Cassandra Kraft, GP 24.36, 12. Olivia Mason, AHP 25.14.
100-yard butterfly: 1. Sara Stotler, CLAY 53.35 AA-A, 2. Avery Hawker, ROB 56.12, 3. Hannah Ahn, ESID 56.51, 7. Chloe Hernandez, GP 58.64, 10. Esther Lin, PC 58.60, time drop, 11. Simone Vale, PC 59.13, time drop, 12. Madison Kozel, PC 59.68.
100-yard freestyle: 1. Mary Hardman, LW 51.49, 2. Hanna Smith, PC 51.99, 3. Claire Han, PENS 52.70, 12. Nadya Yanova, PC 55.44, 14. Cassandra Kraft, GP 55.75.
500-yard freestyle: 1. Blair Stoneburg, JEN 4:39.10 AA-A, 2. Riley Botting, PC 4:53.95 AA-C, time drop, 3. Cadence Fort, ESTO 4:58.57, 7. Haley Cisewski, PC 5:08.43, 10. Aria Torretta, GP 5:10.12, 13. Giovana Musiello, GP 5:15.60.
200-yard freestyle relay: 1. Pine Crest 1:35.60 AA-C (Julia Podkoscielny, Isabella Chambers, Riley Botting, Hanna Smith), time drop, 2. Jensen Beach 1:36.63 AA-C, 3. Gulliver Prep 1:38.34, 11. Cardinal Gibbons 1:44.07, 14. American Heritage Plantation 1:44.79.
100-yard backstroke: 1. Julia Podkoscielny, PC 54.29, AA-A, 2. Brooke Beede, ROB 57.34, 3. Isabelle Sealey, SATE 57.47, 4. Simone Vale, PC 58.54, 11. Jaclyn Nelson, CG 1:01.07, 24. Sofia Osorio-Gomez, SOM 1:05.09.
100-yard breaststroke: 1. Michelle Fernandez, MAT 1:04.59, 2. Riley Botting, PC 1:04.61, time drop, 4. Emily Santos, MONT 1:05.71, 6. Esther Lin, PC 1:06.85, 9. Sara Lin, PC 1:07.13, time drop, 10. Lara Jones, PC 1:09.00, 13. Elyse Wood, GP 1:09.65.
400-yard freestyle relay: 1. Jensen Beach 3:29.55 AA-C (Brynn Stoneburg, Madeline Kohs, Emily Miller, Blair Stoneburg), 2. Gulliver Prep 3:34.11 (Alissa Pascual, Cassandra Kraft, Giovana Musiello, Chloe Hernandez), 3. Robinson 3:34.87, 12. American Heritage Plantation 3:49.14.
1-meter diving: 1. Rylie Darkatsh, STAN 378.70, 2. Kaylee Greenberg, PC 370.10, 3. Ava Anderson, PC 345.45, 8. Sarah Ghadiali, PC 325.55
MEN TEAM TOTALS
- Tampa Jesuit 277, 2. Pine Crest 185, 3. Mater Lakes Academy 164, 4. Arnold 135, 5. Stanton Prep 125, 6. Bishop Kenny 120, 7. Gulliver Prep 98, 8. American Heritage Plantation 89, 9. Lincoln Park 85, 10. Montverde 82, 11. River Ridge 62, 12. Cape Coral 56, 13. Rockledge 51, 14. Lemon Bay 50, 15. Cocoa 48, 16. Eastside 44, 17. tie, Estero, Chamberlain 40, 19. tie, Cypress Creek, Tavares 36, 21. Baker 35, 22. Atlantic 33, 23. Bishop Moore 32, 24. tie, Crystal River, Avon Park, 30, 37. Somerset 9, 42. Cardinal Gibbons 5, 44. Monsignor Pace 4.
MEN INDIVIDUAL RESULTS
200-yard medley relay: 1. Jesuit 1:35.82 (Nicholas Shaffer, Liam Schindler, Erick Magalhaes, Sam Prabhakaran), 2. Mater Lakes 1:37.31 (Anthony Martinez, Anthony Robaina, Agustin Rodriguez, Daniel Quijada), 3. Arnold 1:38.26, 6. Gulliver Prep 1:39.86, 11. Pine Crest 1:43.29 (Wyatt Denhard, Erick Zepeda, Colin Nealy, Luc Ferrara).
200-yard freestyle: 1. Jose Medina, OPRK 1:44.89, 2. Ryan Finster, JES 1:46.51, 3. Armando Destrade, JES 1:47.29.
200-yard individual medley: 1. Nicholas Shaffer, JES 1:50.83 AA-C, 2. Mehdi Elaoufir, STAN 1:53.01, 3. Tristan Ide, ATPO 1:54.42, 14. Daniel Watson, AHP 2:03.03.
50-yard freestyle: 1. Chance Tirheimer, CHBL 20.34 AA-A, 2. Joshua Hanks, PC 20.61 AA-C, 3. Charles Wilson, CRIV 21.29.
100-yard butterfly: 1. Braeden Knight, BCHS 51.01, 2. Josh Farless, AVPK 51.82, 3. Reese Hawker, ROB 52.47, 5. Joseph Lee, AHP 53.77, 9. Luc Ferrara, PC 54.03, time drop, 11. Colin Nealy, PC 54.50, time drop, 12. Marcus Szarbo, CG 54.57, 13. Juan Camilo Rivero, MP 54.58.
100-yard freestyle: 1. Chance Tirheimer, CHBL 44.70 AA-A, 2. Brennan Muramatsu, MONT 46.59, 3. Shane McEliece, ARNO 47.12.
500-yard freestyle: 1. Eliot Weisel, ROCK 4:34.24, 2. Mehdi Elaoufir, STAN 4:37.02, 3. Sam Prabhakaran, JES 4:38.18, 6. Isaiah Jimenez, GP 4:43.69, 7. Agustin Rodriguez, MATE 4:43.74, 9. Enrique Rodriguez, SOM 4:49.34, time drop.
200-yard freestyle relay: 1. Mater Lakes 1:27.84 (Daniel Quijada, Ronny Rueda, Anthony Robaina, Agustin Rodriguez), 2. Pine Crest 1:28.02 (Joshua Hanks, Luc Ferrara, Erick Zepeda, Victor Lago), 3. Jesuit 1:28.78, 5. American Heritage Plantation 1:31.97, 10. Gulliver Prep 1:32.29.
100-yard backstroke: 1. Jake Sciscente, LP 50.31 AA-C, 2. Brennan Muramatsu, MONT 51.07, 3. Nicholas Shaffer, JES 51.46.
100-yard breaststroke: 1. Joshua Hanks, PC 55.65 AA-A, 2. Tristan Ide, ATP 57.87, 3. Colin McEliece, ARNO 58.03, 5. Joseph Lee, AHP 59.39, time drop, 6. Anthony Robaina, MATE 59.93, 8. Bruno Rebessi, GP 1:01.45, 13. Parker Rosenthal, GP 1:01.55, 14. Wyatt Denhard, PC 1:01.58.
400-yard freestyle relay: 1. Jesuit 3:10.22 (Sam Prabhakaran, Geoffrey Trieloff, Liam Schindler, Nicholas Shaffer), 2. Stanton Prep 3:15.43, 3. Pine Crest 3:15.76 (Joshua Hanks, Victor Lago, Luc Ferrara, Roman Ferrara), 5. American Heritage Plantation 3:20.14 (Kirill Prikhodko, Nicolas Rossi, Rithvik Marri, Benjamin Gomez del Campo), 9. Gulliver Prep 3:21.10, 10. Mater Lakes 3:22.34.
1-meter diving: 1. Kevin Mendez, PC 560.45, 2. Elisha Dees, EDWH 480.60, 3. Nicholas Tolento, LWAL 452.00
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org