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Preston is working on college career

By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 12, 2002

Crystal River's Ash Preston wants to keep competing long after this season.

The senior has been accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy, and hopes to be a member of the swim squad.

Pirates coach and Naval Science teacher Tim Holme said Preston has a good shot at reaching that goal.

"He's got to go up there and prove to them that they need him on their team," said Holme, a retired captain. "That's a pretty high-powered Division I team, but he's got a chance. But he's definitely going to the Naval Academy regardless."

Last season, Preston was a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champion and All-Citrus/Hernando pick in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. Although he is not a recruited athlete, Preston's work ethic could help him make the Naval Academy squad as a walk-on, Holme said.

"They'll pay attention to what his times are in various events and how he does in districts and state in Florida, and he'll have to wait until he gets there to get to the water and show what he can do," Holme said.

"He loves to work and drives himself to improve. He's one person who I can absolutely depend on to complete every set of every practice, and he still looks for more to do," the coach said.

As the Blue and Gold officer for Citrus County, Holme advises students hoping to attend the Naval Academy. Preston, in Crystal River's ROTC program, has an older brother, Andrew, at the Annapolis, Md., school.

GAFFNEY GOES DISTANCE: Citrus freshman Ian Gaffney made a splash in his first meet.

Tuesday against Lecanto, Gaffney easily won the 500 freestyle and 100 butterfly and swam a leg in the Hurricanes' winning 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.

Citrus coach Doug Patton knew Gaffney would make an immediate impact. "He's right about where we thought he'd be because we knew he was good coming in," Patton said.

"We hope he'll have at least one school record by the end of this year -- he's already come close in the 500 -- and he's got a good shot at qualifying for state as long as he keeps focused."

The Hurricanes' other individual victories were produced by Kevin Larkin (200 freestyle, 100 backstroke) and Charles Osterhout (100 breaststroke).

LECANTO LOOKS GOOD: The Panthers had just five swimmers last season, when Paul Brundage said his squad concentrated on relays.

Against Citrus on Tuesday, a 12-man Lecanto team posted three individual wins.

"I think what's changed is that the numbers are increasing," Brundage said. "But, as for the experience level, we will just have to be patient for those new to it to gain experience over the next couple of years. "Hopefully, we'll be able to increase those numbers, that way we'll just become more and more competitive with the teams in our area," the coach said.

David Bowman captured first in the 100 freestyle, and Scott Jackson won the 50 free.

"It looks like a very promising year for him," Brundage said of Jackson. "He's motivated and competitive, so I think he'll make real good progress this year."

Andrew Norton's performance in the 200 individual medley garnered praise from Brundage. "That was a great race to watch because it was a close race and, again, he showed his competitive nature there and was able to win that."

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