STUART -- Mission accomplished for Plantation American Heritage’s boys’ swimming team.
American Heritage claimed its first state title in dominant fashion, scoring 276 points in the Class 2A state finals at Sailfish Splashpark Aquatic Athletics Center on Saturday night.
Clay, which featured national record holder Caeleb Dressel, was second with 169 points.
“They did a great job,” American Heritage coach Nobutaka Tan said. “They had a mission to do the best, and they wanted to do well. They knew they had to go one at a time and they didn’t let up.
“We still have one more year to go. We only have one senior. I’m really proud of these guys. They knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
American Heritage’s boys’ relay team set the tone by winning the 200-yard medley in 1:36.31, narrowly edging second-place Suncoast by half a second. Suncoast led for most of the race, but American Heritage junior Taylor Eaddy swam the anchor and secured the win.
“When I’m behind, that means nothing,” Eaddy said. “When I say in my mind, ‘We as a team are going to win,’ then I’ll win. It doesn’t matter if I’m two seconds behind, five seconds behind or one second behind, I’m going to win.”
American Heritage sophomore Nicolas Medina also won a state title in the 500 freestyle, beating Shawn Lemaire of Naples in one of the closest races of the day. Medina finished in 4:34.05, and Lemaire posted a time of 4:34.12.
Medina said he didn’t actually know that he won the race until he saw the scoreboard.
“It was the craziest thing I could have imagined,” Medina said. “The last 50 I saw that I had a chance, and I just went for it.
“I never really felt comfortable that I had won, I just knew that I could and I gave it all I could do it.
“He really gave me a race though. I had looked him up on USA Swimming, and I knew that he had good times. This is a dream come true.”
No more Bolles
American Heritage had been in Class 1A with national power Jacksonville Bolles before this year, but the move to Class 2A opened the door for the team to claim the title. Medina said the boys were wary of Clay, but felt confident they could win.
Tan refused to relax the entire night and maintained the same focus during the final event. The boys’ 400-free relay team finished second to close a banner night for American Heritage.
“I am [relieved] now,” Tan said with a smile. “But I told my kids it doesn’t matter how much you win by, you cannot let loose. You have to finish. We have to finish strong, and we always emphasize that.
“It doesn’t matter who you compete against, you have to finish … and they’ve done that.”
Cardinal Gibbons’ boys finished 13th with 65 points. On the girls’ side, American Heritage was the top local finisher — 14th with 58 points.