Winkler, Pelaez, South Florida shines in 2A, 1A state swimming competitions
It was an outstanding first weekend for South Florida teams at the FHSAA Class 2A and Class 1A swimming and diving championships at the Florida Aquatics Swimming & Training (FAST) facility in Ocala.
Jacksonville Bolles continued its unprecedented state dominance as it swept the Class 1A boys’ and girls’ team titles. The boys won their record 36th consecutive title and the girls won their record 33rd straight title, however, South Florida swimmers were well represented in the pool.
South Florida HEAT senior Kaii Winkler, four months removed from getting hit by a car on his way home from a morning practice in June, set two national records in breaking his own state record of 1:34.18 when he clocked a 1:32.68 in the 200 free, it also broke a 4-year-old national mark of 1:32.99.
“It isn’t easy coming back from any injuries,’ said Winkler, a North Carolina State University commit, who suffered fractures in his left wrist and right elbow in the accident. “Although I was pretty devastated, I didn’t forget what had to be done. I got back in the water a week after the incident and starting kicking and working on underwaters.
Winkler then broke another national record with a 42.14-second 100-yard split in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The record was previously 42.34. Winkler also added a state championship in the 100 butterfly event with a time of 46.33 seconds.
South Florida HEAT teammate Erika Pelaez was equally dominant on Saturday night as she set four state records to go along with the previous state record she held entering the meet, for a total of five state records. Headed off to North Carolina State on a swimming scholarship next fall, the HEAT senior has accumulated 20 medals during her high school swimming career.
“It was really exciting,” said Pelaez, who swam two different events this year at the state meet. “I kept the 100 free in the relay, and the 50 free since I was in the eighth grade. I also kept the 100 back from last year because I felt I could do better, and I am happy because I was able to drop it.”
Pelaez’s 21.98 in the 50 freestyle and her 51.29 100 backstroke each set a state record. And she was a part of the girls 400 freestyle relay that broke another state record when it touched the wall with a time of 3:19.39. Her 100 split in the 100 free was also a state record.
St. Andrew’s was second in the boys with 157 points, while King’s Academy was third with 146. Pine Crest finished fourth with 128 points and the South Florida HEAT was fifth with 123 points.
The South Florida Heat girls finished second with 251 points, while King’s Academy was third with 182.50 points and St. Andrew’s was fourth with 178 points. Benjamin (107) and Pine Crest (105) were sixth and seventh respectively.
In the boys Class 1A 1-meter diving competition, South Florida divers took the top six spots and seven of eight, Pine Crest captured four of the top six, including Pine Crest junior Allen Levitis (529.95) and teammate Max Starkman, who went 1-2 in the boys.
“My goal this year was to just do my very best and have a consistent performance,” said Levitis, who has the county’s best score this year of 609 points. “Finishing second last year gave me tons of motivation coming into club and high school season. I’ve put in a lot of work, training, and dedication in so seeing that pay off to win first was great.
Oxbridge sophomore Sean Dowling was third (488.65), University School eighth grader Andres Winterman was fourth (448.30), Pine Crest senior Danyai Ghadiali (439.85) was fifth, Pine Crest freshman Ashton Jacobi took sixth (437.85) and University School sophomore Mason Starkman was eighth (407.70).
Benjamin sophomore Sarah Napier was fourth in girls 1-meter diving (408.75). It was her third straight trip to the state finals and her best finish yet. St. John Paul II Academy junior Hayden Loft was sixth (381.40)
The South Florida HEAT girls 200 medley relay finished second, while King’s Academy was fourth. St. Andrew’s and Pine Crest were fifth and sixth respectively. St. Andrew’s boys 200 medley relay finished second, while King’s Academy was fifth and Pine Crest was sixth.
King’s Academy junior Emma Herrera was fourth in the 200 free with a PR of 1:49.52, while South Florida Heat sophomores Giola Balzano and Sofia Jorge were sixth and seventh. Benjamin eighth grader Allison Kelly was eighth in the 200 free and sixth in the 500 free. Jorge also placed seventh in the 100 fly.
King’s Academy freshman Hamilton Gates was second in the boys 200 free and St. Andrew’s sophomore William Domokos-Murphy took fourth.
King’s Academy senior Aly Bozzuto was second in the 50 free (22.70), while St. Andrew’s senior and University of Virginia commit Aspen Gersper (22.73). King’s Academy junior Julianna Bell was sixth in the event. She also took fifth in the 100 free.
Bozzuto was also second in the 100 breast (1:01.88).
Gersper won the 100 free (49.05), while South Florida HEAT’s Balzano was fourth.
Pine Crest sophomore Sara Miller was eighth in the 200 IM (2:11.73) and teammate Sara Lin, a senior, who is committed to Georgetown, was fifth in the 100 breast (1:03.72).
St. Andrew’s junior Alexia Sotomayor won the girls 100 fly, while St. Andrew’s senior Diego Balbi was second in both the 100 fly (47.09) and the 100 back (48.67). He sliced 1.44 seconds off his personal best time in the backstroke.
King’s Academy senior Noah Engstrom was seventh in the 50 free (21.05) and fifth in the 100 free (46.35) with a new PR and University School senior Salvatore Lanzafame was sixth in the 100 breast.
The South Florida HEAT was second in the girls 200 free relay, while St. Andrew’s was third, King’s Academy fourth and Benjamin fifth. Calvary Christian Academy was seventh.
In the boys 200 free relay, the South Florida HEAT was second, while King’s Academy was fourth and St. Andrew’s finished seventh.
The South Florida HEAT won the girls 400 free relay (3:19.39), which represented a nearly six second drop. St. Andrew’s was third, King’s Academy and Benjamin were fourth and sixth respectively. Pine Crest finished eighth.
The South Florida HEAT took second in the boys 400 free relay (3:05.55), which also represented a 5.60 second drop. St. Andrew’s was third. King’s Academy and University School (3:13.92) were sixth and sixth respectively.
Benjamin eighth grader Feagin Kaminski said the team added a couple of swimmers this year which benefited the relays in particular. Benjamin was fifth in the 200 free relay and sixth in the 400 free relay.
Benjamin eighth grader teammate Allison Kelly broke five minutes in the 500 free for the first time in her career. She also placed eighth in the 200 free.
Radich wins state title in Class 2A meet
Cardinal Gibbons sophomore Juliet Radich won the girls 1-meter diving with a 473.65 total, becoming the third diver from her school to grace the top spot on the podium. She joins Kathy McPadden, who won the Class 3A title in 1979 and Zach Allen, who won three straight Class 2A championships from 2014-16.
Radich, the lone Broward County winner in the Class 2A meet, qualified for the state competition last year, but was unable to attend when Hurricane Nicole made landfall about 30 miles north of Stuart and forced the competition to be postponed a week.
“I was able to make up for it this year,” Radich giggled. She added an inward double this year to her dive list, which increased the degree of difficulty. “It’s a confidence booster. It is really fun to see other people dive and how that dynamic works.
“I was looking forward to going to states last year and there was that whole road bump,” she added. “I would say it makes up for it. I am going to remember bonding with my teammates and making friends at states. I met a lot of great people.”
American Heritage junior Alessandro Pereira was third in the boys 200 IM (1:53.93) and seventh in the 500 free (4:43.99) to help spark the Patriots
Patriots’ teammate American Heritage senior Rithvik Marri finished fourth in the 100 free (47.47) and tied for fifth in the boys 200 yard freestyle (1:45.05).
American Heritage was seventh in the 200 yard medley relay and the 400 free relay were fifth.
Cardinal Gibbons senior Marcus Szabo was fourth in the boys 200 yard freestyle and seventh in the 100 fly. Pompano Beach junior Lilia Blanco took third in the girls 200 IM and seventh in the 100 free. Dreyfoos freshman Allison Connors was fifth in the 200 IM and eighth in the 500 free.
Pompano Beach senior Gianni Famiano was fourth in the 100 breaststroke and fifth in the 200 IM, while Pompano Beach senior Giuliano Brunetti was fifth in the 500 free and sixth in the 200 IM. Somerset junior Felix Gonzalez took eighth in the 500 freestyle.
Pompano Beach senior Julia Freshour placed seventh in the 500 free. The Pompano girls 200 free relay was sixth, while the boys 200 free relay was eighth. Dreyfoos freshman Emma Han was eighth in the girls 100 backstroke.
The Pompano girls 400 free relay was fourth, while the American Heritage girls were seventh in the 400 free relay, Pompano Beach boys were seventh in the 400 free.
Pompano Beach girls finished eighth with 105 points, while the Academy of Holy Names won with 316 points, winning for the second straight year.
The Bishop Kenny boys successfully defended its title with 236.50 points, while American Heritage was fourth with 124.50 points. Pompano Beach was eighth with 102 points.