The folks at West Florida Lightning Aquatics are used to out-of-town guests attending their annual June meet. But this weekend, WFLA will not have the fresh competition it is used to from out-of-state teams. Instead, it will host a squad from out of the country - South Africa.
The South African Seals are the home team of Olympian and former Florida State swimmer Brendan Dedekind, who finished fifth in the 50-yard freestyle in 2000. Tanya Strydon, 14 and a nationally-ranked sprinter, is one of 16 swimmers the Seals are bringing.
"Looking at the times, I think there'll be good competition," WFLA head coach Cashel Mack said. "A lot of the time the teams in this area race the same people. It'll be a good opportunity for them to race some new faces."
Tampa Bay area teams competing in this weekend's meet include the St. Pete Aquatic Team, Clearwater Aquatic Team, Tampa Bay Aquatics, Carrollwood Village Swim Team and Swim Team at Countryside. For more than 20 years, WFLA has attracted teams from all over for its major summer meet. It is a place for swimmers who are gearing up for the end of the short summer season and the championships in July and August, such as the Junior Olympics.
While most meets are just timed finals, this weekend's format of preliminary heats in the morning and finals in the evening simulate a championship format.
"This is a good opportunity for them to practice that," Mack said. "Leading up to that, there aren't that many opportunities."