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Hurricanes, Warhawks duel at Zone Challenge

Seminole edges PHU for the girls title, but PHU edges it out for second in the boys competition and wins the overall title.

By JOHN SCHWARB

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- As swim meets go, the Northeast Swim Zone Challenge is usually for entertainment purposes only.

Music blares. Swimmers go overboard for spirit awards, and in the pool, coaches tinker with the all-relay lineups and make sure everyone gets a chance to compete.

But Saturday, in the midst of all the fun, Seminole and Palm Harbor U. kicked off a serious battle for county supremacy that certainly will not be settled until districts.

Call Round 1 a draw.

Seminole bettered PHU by eight points to win the girls competition at North Shore Pool, but the Hurricanes topped the Warhawks by 10 to take second in the boys standings behind Punta Gorda Charlotte.

In the overall standings, PHU beat Seminole by two points for its first Swim Zone championship.

"The main thing that this has always been for is the spirit, and this is the first time we've also focused on the swimming," PHU coach Lisa Bitting said. "It was really neat to see it all come together."

PHU and Seminole each had five wins in girls swimming events, in alternating fashion except for the 200-yard butterfly relay, which Northeast won. Every time one team had a great race, the other responded.

In the 200 freestyle relay, Warhawks Leeann Laing, Katie Metka, Mallory Coulombe and Teresa Tessier won in 1 minute, 42.69 seconds to set a meet and school record.

The time was almost 1 1/2 seconds better than the Warhawks' county record set at last year's conference meet.

But PHU won the next race, the 400 medley relay, and later claimed the 100 free relay in record time (50.73).

The Hurricanes added one more meet record in the 200 breaststroke relay, when freshman Jessica Deng chased down East Lake in the final 15 yards to win by one hundredth of a second (2:16.81).

"That's pretty nifty, huh?" said Seminole coach Tom Haight, whose team was edged by one hundredth of a second in the boys 400 free relay by Charlotte, costing the Warhawks the overall title. "This was a very, very close meet."

For the boys, Charlotte won four events and Seminole won three (the teams tied in the 200 butterfly). St. Petersburg, which placed fourth, just behind Seminole, swam consistently with five top-three finishes.

Host Northeast won two events, the 400 medley relay and the 200 breaststroke relay.

But again, PHU found a way to distinguish itself. Its boys won three events, and the 100 freestyle relay team of Josh Curnutte, Michael Postell, Rob Reinshuttle and Justin Macik set a meet record of 43.05, bettering the 8-year-old mark by three-fourths of a second.

"We were close to 42 (seconds), but 43.0 works," Curnutte said. "We all felt pretty good. We went pretty fast for this early (in the season)."

In Friday's diving competition at Northeast, PHU fell just shy of Tampa Prep on the boys side. St. Petersburg Catholic won the girls diving.

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