Cougars dominate in meet

Countryside takes first place in the girls and boys divisions at the Total Team Challenge.

Published September 10, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Megan Romano didn't break a national record or even win an event by herself.

With all the individual attention given to the Northeast sophomore - who most notably swam in the Olympic trials and rewrote eight of 12 Vikings' records last year - it was a relaxing day for Northeast and 18 other schools at the 15th annual Total Team Challenge, with the emphasis on team.

"Funny story though," Northeast coach and meet-founder Bill Burrows said. "Even when we brought the team programs out, we've never had a photo on the cover. This year, we took a stock picture of a girl swimming and put it on the cover. When I brought them out (Friday), they were all saying "Oh look, Megan's on the cover," but it wasn't even her."

The meet, which Northeast hosts at the North Shore Complex, went once again untouched by weather. Teamwork and camaraderie highlighted the 12 relays, many of which aren't in normal meets.

Sharing the celebratory spotlight was Countryside. The Cougars became the first team besides the Palm Harbor University Hurricanes to win the overall challenge in three years.

"It's a great meet because all the teams come in themes. Ours was the Pirates of the Caribbean, with the 'argh' and all. We were pirates," said Cougars coach Susan Curnutte, whose squad shared the annual spirit award with St. Petersburg, which had a superheroes theme.

Countryside won both the girls (432) and boys (372) titles, compiling 804 total points. The Hurricanes, who finished second in both divisions, had 768 overall points.

Garnering as much attention recently as Romano, Countryside senior Katie Kastes was in on four of five Cougar relay wins.

A pair of brothers - Milan and Mate Fabian, and Jon and James Taddeo - helped Countryside slight the Hurricane boys by six points with wins in the 400-yard medley, the 100 medley and the 200 breaststroke.

However, PHU won more (4) boys races behind sophomore sensation Tyler Reed.

On Friday, the Tampa Prep boys won diving event led by Eli Bobo, while Shorecrest won the girls side led by a 103.5 from Hannah Stein.

As for Romano, she was in on two Northeast wins - the 250 freestyle and the 200 backstroke - with teammates Jennifer Crankshaw, Sally Decker, Katie Brown, Lindsay Daniel and Melanie Stickney. In all her splits, only one boy had a better time.

"She's in a class all of her own," Burrows said. "She deserves the attention."