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Cougars earn girls team title

Countryside edges PHU in the PCAC meet, but the Hurricanes win the boys title.

By DOUG KATES
Published September 17, 2006


LARGO - In the most grueling event of any swim meet, Countryside swept the top three places in the 500-meter freestyle, providing a huge boost Saturday in the PCAC girls swimming championship.

Cougars coach Ian O'Neil captured the team title by edging nemesis Palm Harbor University in a close battle. Countryside won with 451 points, followed by the Hurricanes (428) and Northeast (258).

In the boys division, the outcome was switched. PHU won with 484 points, followed by Countryside (359.5) and Northeast (253).

"It's been a long time," said O'Neil, who's been waiting for a title since he took over the team in 2000. "We thought this was going to be our year in the beginning of the season. They were nervous because they knew they had a battle."

The Cougars led through the first four events, but in the 100 fly and the 100 freestyle, PHU outscored Countryside 97-60 to take a 238-222 lead.

In the pivotal seventh event, Paige Schmidt took first place, Jana Willsey took second and Ashley Rossi took third. The Cougars regained the lead and never trailed again.

The Cougars finished with three individual winners and two relay wins. Melanie Margalis captured the 200 individual medley title in a record 2 minutes, 6.33 seconds. She broke the previous record of 2:06.76 set by her sister Stephanie in 2000.

"I really wanted to do it," Margalis said. "(Stephanie) said she would be happy as long as we kept it in the family."

Rachel Burns won the 100 backstroke for the Cougars, while Katie Coleman earned titles in the 200 free and 100 fly for the Hurricanes.

In the boys meet, PHU led from start to finish thanks in part to a near perfect night for Alex Glover, who won back-to-back events in the 50 free and 100 fly. He also helped win two relays. Overall, his effort in the fly broke a 7-year-old record, and both relays wins also set records.

Glover combined with Levi Curnutte, Chris Mertens and Jasim Alidina in the 200 medley relay, and he joined forces with Alidina, Tyler Reed and Ramon Banacki in the 200 free relay.

PHU coach Lisa Bitting said her boys had to "swim out of their minds" in order to win the team title by a 124.5 point margin.

"I'm not surprised they won," she said. "I am surprised how fast they swam. They had the desire to win."

Andrew Blazuk of Seminole was the only other two-time individual champion. He placed first in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.

Overall, nine different records were broken during the meet.