Changes to swim team lead to postseason success

The girls’ swim and dive team made history at the district meet on Oct. 30 when it took home the first-place trophy. Among these swimmers, 10 qualified for regionals, four took first place in their relay events and two took first place in their individual events.

This was a high-emotion victory as the team had narrowly missed first place in the past several years.

“I was ecstatic,” head coach Donald Gornto said. “The girls have gotten runner-up six years in a row and every year our goal was to get better and better. Finally, when we did I was ecstatic. I was so happy for them.”

Junior Sydney Weatherspoon won both of her individual events, the 50 and 100 meter freestyle, in addition to being a part of the winning 200 and 400 meter freestyle relay teams, which also included sophomore Katelyn Owl and seniors Alexandra and Phoebe Theophelis.

“It was really exciting to hear that the team won districts,” Weatherspoon said. “We have definitely put in the work, and it’s nice to see it pay off. I was pleased with my results as well.”

Weatherspoon endured pneumonia throughout most of the season which limited her full potential.

“I am now just finally getting rid of it,” Weatherspoon said. “Since I had it for such a long time and I was still able to swim ok with it, it makes me really excited for the rest of the postseason, as I hope to put in a few best times.”

The Lady Wildcats weren’t the only ones who showed out this meet, as the boys’ swim team defended its runner-up title from last year and did so without having a dive team.

“I was as proud of the boys getting second as I was of the girls getting first,” Gornto said. “The thing that was so exciting was Cocoa Beach beat us by 63 points and they got 57 of those from diving, so to come so close to beating Cocoa Beach without having any divers, I think had we had divers we could have beat Cocoa Beach and took first place.”

Ten boys also qualified for regionals, with three placing first in an individual event and the 200 and 400 meter freestyle relay team winning their respective events.

Senior and captain Dylan Gornto, a member of both relay teams, also placed first in the 200 meter individual medley.

“Going into districts I knew we were going to win our relays because we were seeded well, but I was unsure about my individual event,” he said. “I was really happy placing first because I’d never been a district champion, then to go off my senior season and finish with three wins is really exciting.”

The team attributes some of its postseason success to significant systematic changes.

“First we did weight-training, which we had never done before,” Coach Gornto said. “We also went to a more sprint-oriented practice schedule, but I think the biggest difference that we made is cuts this year. When people found out we were going to make cuts,  I saw a lot of people practice over the summer, which contributed to their success.”

Phoebe Theophelis also agrees that the new weightlifting regimen contributed to their success.

“We had to go to the gym two days a week and we also did more dry land [conditioning],” she said. “Overall, I think weightlifting made us a lot stronger and developed different muscles which help with pulling ourselves through the water faster and I know a lot of us saw drops in our times after we started tapering and resting because of it.”

Regionals occurred Nov. 10, but only one eighth-grade diver, Lilian Altmann, moved on.

“Our regional meet is tough because we swim against a lot of the private schools that get people all over the nation to come swim for them,” Coach Gornto said. “My goal is to send swimmers on to make it to the state meet. I honestly feel that we could have two girls relays, two boys relays and as many as three individual swimmers move on to state.”