Reagan senior Isabella Paez finished her high school swimming career in fitting fashion.
Paez dominated the field in the 100-yard butterfly and won her first career gold medal in the Class 4A FHSAA finals a the Sailfish Sunsplash Aquatic Athletic Center on Saturday.
Paez finished in 54.70 seconds and earned automatic All-American status. Sarasota Riverview’s Nancy Hu was second in 55.44.
“My coaches told me I had to go out fast if I wanted to do a best time and I did,” Paez said. “The last wall, the last turn could have been a little better, but I really can’t complain.”
Based on Paez’s previous state performances in the event — seventh as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore and third as a junior — standing atop the medal stand was where she thought she would end up.
“After four years, it’s not that I was expecting it, but it feels like I’ve been easing myself into this,” Paez said. “I’ve learned so much throughout the four years. Last year, I had a best time and it was a great swim. I’m so excited that finally today has come. I’ve learned so much. Finally, I won.”
Paez took an early lead after the first 50 yards, and in the end her biggest competition was the clock rather than Hu. Paez was hoping to break 54 seconds; the state record is 53.83 seconds.
Paez had a slightly disappointed look on her face after she saw her time, but finally smiled after getting out of the pool.
“I wish I would have a better time, but this is still so exciting,” Paez said. “Every single race is exciting.”
Reagan junior Arianna Noya was fourth in the 200 freestyle in 1:50.85 and received All-American consideration.
Coral Reef sophomore Kelly Fertel finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM. Her time of 1:04.98 in the 100 breaststroke was good enough for All-American consideration.
“I felt good,” Fertel said. “I would have liked to go lower, but I did 1:04 twice, which was my best time, and I really couldn’t have been happier.
“Last year I made [the consolation finals] and didn’t do good, so this is much better. I got a lot of experience, definitely. Just getting out there with tough competition under pressure is the best thing.”
Palm Harbor University won the boys’ championship with 276 points and Sarasota Riverview won the girls title with 209 points.