© St. Petersburg Times, published September 29, 2002
LARGO -- Hours before the Pinellas County Athletic Conference finals, the Palm Harbor U. boys team was dealt what could have been a severe blow.
In the 400-yard freestyle relay preliminaries, a PHU swimmer's goggles came off and he failed to touch the wall on a turn. The entry was disqualified, meaning no finals appearance and the loss of possibly 30 points or more.
As it turned out, the Hurricanes didn't need that relay, and they could have skipped another relay for good measure. That was how far ahead PHU ended up Saturday in a successful defense of its conference title.
The boys scored 367 points to Seminole's 309, and the girls surprised no one in winning a sixth consecutive PCAC crown, outdistancing Seminole again 436-355.
"The kids stepped up and did better than I thought they could do, we had lots of personal-best times for early in the season," PHU coach Lisa Bitting said.
The tone was set on the girls side in the first event by a 200 medley relay team that won by more than 31/2 seconds. The winning continued throughout the night, with freshmen Candace Thornburg (100 butterfly) and Colleen Bauza (100 backstroke), and sophomores Caitlin Warner (500 free) and Jessica Deng (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke) taking titles.
Deng's time of 1 minute, 7.38 seconds in the 100 breast set a meet record. The PHU boys won the 200 free relay and senior Jason Hillhouse won the 500 free, surprisingly the Hurricanes' first individual PCAC boys champion.
Seminole left with two second-place team finishes but several memorable individual efforts. Junior Katie Metka won the 50 and 100 free, and swam a leg of the record-shattering 200 and 400 relays.
Luis Leon won the 50 and 100 free for the Warhawks boys, with a 50 free time of 21.48 that came within .10 of former Seminole star and U.S. Olympian Scott Tucker.
Osceola's Lauren Permuy and Alex Tilbrook defended their titles at Friday's diving competition.