After a grueling season, swimmers and divers from across Florida are set to compete in the 2012 FHSAA state final in Orlando.
The meet, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday, features a contingent of Broward County athletes focused on reaching the podium.
With fast swims in last week’s region meet, a number of athletes are seeded at the top of their heats. Some of the fastest and highest seeded are in Class 1A. Broward has eight No. 1 seeds in the class, including two relays.
Several athletes will be in contention for multiple titles, including Sagemont’s Jemal Le Grand, Pine Crest’s Brittany Hammond and South Florida HEAT’s Clara Smiddy. All three will face tough competition from the top swimmers in the state. Class 1A is arguably the fastest of the three high school classes.
For Smiddy, the biggest challenge will not be her competition, but her body. Recovering from a pesky knee injury that has limited the junior’s practice schedule, Smiddy has been able to steadily drop her times throughout the year. Seeded first in the 100 back and second in the 100 free, Smiddy is content with the progress she has made, but admits returning to top form has been difficult.
“I’ve had surgery twice in the past year,” she said. “With my knee and everything, I’m happy with my time.”
Smiddy’s All-American Automatic time of 0:55.63 in the 100 back is close to half a second faster than her closest rival.
Both Smiddy and Le Grand will challenge for medals in the girls’ and boys’ 100 free, respectively. Le Grand faces a tough challenge from rival Daniel Spas in the race. Spas, a senior from American Heritage, narrowly lost the 100 free to Le Grand in the region 4-1A meet. Trailing for the first 75 yards, Le Grand passed Spas as the swimmers neared the wall. The pair are the two top seeds in the race.
In the diving event, Pine Crest’s Carolyn Chaney is hoping to win her second state title. The sophomore, seeded third, has increased the degree of difficulty in her dives in hopes of scoring more points with the judges.
“It’s definitely 10 times more pressure this year,” Chaney said. “I just want to do my best. I’m working as hard as I can and hopefully I can come out with the win.”
In the boys’ 1-meter dive competition, St. Thomas Aquinas’ Jack Harrington will attempt to win his first state title in Class 3A. Harrington, who won the region 4-3A meet, will need to improve his score of 461 to contend for a title.
In the team competition, all three Pine Crest’s girls’ relays will challenge for titles. Hammond, a senior, will anchor the top-seeded 200 free and 400 free relays. Perennial powerhouse Jacksonville Bolles will also be in contention in all three events. Bolles, nearly assured team state titles in both the boys and girls, could be the biggest obstacle Pine Crest faces.
On the boys’ side, Bolles’ three relays are expected to come close to setting new marks in both the state and national record books. Bolles already holds the national record in all three events.