By NANCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001
Hopes of setting personal bests and establishing meet records are high on the list for area swimmers this weekend.
Since Thursday, about 100 local competitors 14 years old and younger have battled in the Junior Olympic Championships in Gainesville.
Swimmers represent the Clearwater Aquatic Team, West Florida Lightning Aquatics, Dunedin Aquatic Club and St. Petersburg Aquatics in the final meet of the season for this age group.
"We had a send-off party Wednesday for all the swimmers that qualified for JOs," said first-year Clearwater coach Mike Yearwood. "I told them it was an honor to qualify for the state championships and they should all be proud."
Clearwater has 31 individuals competing in 131 events. West Florida has 26, Dunedin 6 and St. Petersburg 23.
"We're hoping for some personal bests with some swimmers in the finals," Yearwood said. "We should have some vying for state championships."
Yearwood, who was born and raised in Bartow and previously coached in Texas, predicts swimmers from Florida, California and Texas will dominate the top 16 places in the USA Swimming rankings at the end of the season.
Representing Clearwater in the girls 13-14 division are Katelynn Stevens, Sarah Michael, Erin Hill, Kali Goodwin, Stephanie Widmer, Caitlin Warner, Kymberly Sgrignoli, Jie Deng, Joy Taylor, Kelli Carpenter and Colleen Bauza.
Rounding out the team are Jana Willsey, Candace Thornburg, Whitney Roper, Deidre Novotny, Julianne Tsagaris and Kariann Stevens, in the 11-12 division; Rebecca Howard, Mary Carpenter and Jill Sears, in 10-and-under; and Kaitlin Frehling, in 8-and-under.
Benoit Lamour is the only Clearwater swimmer in the 13-14 boys division of the Junior Olympic Championships. Stephen Tsagaris is in 8-and-under. Cameron Martin, James and Jonathan Taddeo, Jose Crescimbeni, Jordan Hawkins and Kory Sgrignoli are in 10-and-under and Adam Corbin and Andrew Mertens in 11-12.
Among the West Florida swimmers in the competition through Sunday is Clay Bullock, who has competed in five other JOs.
Other West Florida members are Ashley Rossi, Claire and Christine Thompson, Alexandra Hamilton, Tara Cromer, Tierney Moses, Teresa Tessier, Kristen Box, MaryAnne Thomas, Ashley Gorman, Jessica Brown, Leighann Brown, Nicole Gauzens, Lana Douglas, Andrew Jurgutis, Matt Thompson, Antonio and Francisco Birk, Trevor and Casey Caldwell, Franko Salvatore, Ross and Keith Coghlan, Nick Vilaret, William Gauzens and Andrew Blazuk. Dunedin's team comprises Lauren Feroleto, Logan Schaefer, Catherine Hofacker, Katie and Henry Samuel and Ferleto and Lauramarie Laskey. Palm Harbor's Chelsea Nauta, who represents the Greater Tampa Swim Association, is in the 11-12 division.
St. Petersburg qualified 23 for the season-ending meet.
GIRLS GYMNASTICS: LaFleur's of Largo was second in Level 7 and 9 in the Presidential Classic in Palm Beach last month. The program's Level 8 team was fifth.
Amanda Miller was first all-around in Level 7 and won the vault and floor exercise. Lindsey Lecroy was third all-around and won the vault. Amber Lee was tops in the Level 7 vault. Alyssa Wright was first all-around in Level 9 and scored a victory in the floor exercise. Whitney Eberhardt was second all-around and won the balance beam in Level 9.
Bayside Gymnastics captured the Level 7 title in the Arnold Challenge. Joy and Victoria DiStefano and Jenna Paul won their respective all-around competitions.
Winning individual events were Joy DiStefano (vault and floor), Kristina Low (beam), Victoria DiStefano (beam), Paul (vault and uneven bars) and Kortney Wright (beam).
In Level 8, Casey Caleca was fifth all-around, and Danielle Carey was seventh.
BOYS GYMNASTICS: The Apollo School of Gymnastics' Class 7 team was second in the Gym Force Classic in Tallahassee and third in the State Championships in Gainesville on the performances of Bradley Hutson, Tomily Bourgoing and Jessee Scott.
In both meets, the gymnasts earned all-around honors. Hutson and Bourgoing were first in the Gym Force and third and sixth, respectively, in the state meet. Scott was fourth in Tallahassee and seventh in state.
Jordanb Loscalzo was Apollo's top all-around finisher in the Gym Force with a second in Class 5. Jacob Wolf was fourth in Class 6.
DIVING: The Clearwater Aquatic Team earned its first individual national berth in last weekend's Junior Olympic Regional Championships in Orlando.
Cody Dodds, 12, qualified for next month's national meet at Indiana University with a sixth-place performance on the 1-meter in the 13-14 age division. Dodds was ninth on the 3-meter.
The top six competitors in each category advance to the national.
Kaila Johnston was eighth on the 1-meter for 14-15 girls, and Cammie Voss was 25th on the 1-meter in the 16-18 class.
The Suncoast Diving Club entered six members in the regional, and two advanced.
After just five months in the sport, Alex Tillbrook placed second on the 1-meter in 14-15. Ryan Troup, 15, was fifth on the 1-meter and seventh on the 3-meter.
Because the sixth-place finisher declined to advance in the 3-meter, Troup will compete in nationals in both events.
Amy Boyd was sixth on the 1-meter for 11-and-under divers, but nationals begin with the 13-and-under division.
Other performances by Suncoast divers included Lauren Permuy, 10th on the 1-meter in 16-18, and Erik Georgieff and Taylor Hotz, each 11th on the 1-meter in14-15. Austin Hampton of St. Petersburg advanced to the national competition with a second on the 3-meter and fifth on the 1-meter.