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Raynovich still on his perch

The Northeast senior repeats as the county's best, but falls short of a repeat at the state meet.

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 15, 2001

Jordan Raynovich had a bad morning, and as a result was banished to Lane 6.

Lane 6? Does Jeff Gordon start a Daytona 500 from Row 14? Does Tiger Woods go through local qualifying for a spot in a U.S. Open?

For swimming's best, Lane 6 is foreign territory. In an eight-lane championship final, the top qualifier is in Lane 4. The closest pursuers in a preliminary final claim Lanes 3 and 5.

Lane 6, that's supposedly for those on the fringes of greatness.

But in September's Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet, that's exactly where the Northeast senior found himself the night of the 100-yard freestyle final -- Lane 6. The fourth-best of the eight.

Hmm. Maybe Raynovich, a confident state champion, would be less of a swimmer his final year? Maybe the county competition had finally caught up with him? Raynovich said he even heard one of the faster qualifiers whisper, "Yeah, I'm going to beat him."

But that was just talk, and Raynovich's lane assignment turned out to be just a number.

The starter's horn went off and the Vikings star returned to his old self, winning in 47.54 seconds, beating the top qualifier by 2 seconds.

"Outside smoke," Raynovich said. "At the end, I just dominated, I just kind of got off and bragged a little bit."

He could afford to. The competition wouldn't be getting any breaks this year.

Raynovich gave his rivals little reason to hope after that late September night. In dual meets, he was as steady as a starting block. In the PCAC, City and district meets, he was a two-event winner.

At the state meet, Raynovich fell short in his defense of the Class 2A 200 individual medley gold medal, but still had Pinellas' best night on the boys side with two individual second-place finishes and two thirds in relays. "He was a clutch performer," Northeast coach Bill Burrows said. "When we needed the big swims, he got them."

As expected, Raynovich emerged as a team leader as well as an individual star.

He further secured his place in the record books by breaking former Olympian and Seminole High grad Scott Tucker's mark in the 200 IM at the conference meet and former teammate Ted Bradley's standard in the 200 free at the City meet.

At the same time, he proved unselfish by volunteering for the backstroke leg of the 200 medley relay.

"He was basically the reason we did as well as we did at state," Burrows said.

Raynovich finished second in the 200 IM and 100 free at state, though neither were bad swims -- the winners both posted lightning-fast times (1:51.63 and 45.52, Raynovich's were 1:53.41 and 47.06). And neither were bad considering Raynovich probably isn't done growing and will only get faster next year at Clemson.

"Ah, no more high school," Raynovich said.

"I'll miss it, it was fun, but I'm looking forward to college."

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