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Swimming: Pine Crest Can't Overcome Bolles, Finishes As State Runner-Up

Sharon BlockSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

On a night where Pine Crest, one the state's top teams, was favored to win its first girls' state title in more than 20 years, Jacksonville Bolles showed why it has dominated the state meet for nearly three decades.

Pine Crest came within 10 points, but Bolles prevailed to win with 270 points Friday night at the FHSAA State 1A Swimming and Diving Championship at Sailfish Splashpark Aquatic Center in Stuart.

Pine Crest finished second with 260. The only other South Florida team in the Top 10 was South Florida Heat, seventh with 102 points.

It was Bolles 26th girls' state title. The last time Pine Crest won a state championship was in 1990, the year before Bolles began its state streak.

Bolles boys team had no problem winning its 29th consecutive team title with 384 points. Its last loss was in 1987 to Pine Crest.

Tampa Berkeley Prep was second with 209. Pine Crest, led by state champion diver Kevin Mendez, a seventh grader, was third with 202.

"I was a lot nervous coming in," Bolles coach Jon Sakovich said. "The kids did what they had to do. I didn't want them to get nervous and start worrying about the points."

Pine Crest finished the season undefeated, won district and region titles, and knocked off Bolles in a dual meet for the first time in 25 years and invitational to set up a showdown with Bolles.

"We thought we had a real shot," Pine Crest coach Jay Fitzgerald said. "There is a reason why they have been champions for 26 years in a row."

The Panthers came up short in a few girls events they were favored to win or place in the top eight.

Isabel Ivey of Gainesville Oak Hall won back-to-back titles in the 200-yard individual medley in 1:57.31, an automatic All-American time, and 50-yard freestyle in 22.51, also an automatic All-American time.

With only 12 minutes between races, Ivey knocked off favorite and 2016 U.S. Olympic trials qualifier Marta Ciesla of Pine Crest, runner-up in 22.61, also an automatic All-American time. Ivey also made it official announcing she is transferring to Gainesville Buchholz.

Ivey said she did not shave for the meet and rested for only two days. She is aiming for nationals in December.

Ciesla bounced back and came from behind in her race to win the 100-yard freestyle in 49.67, another automatic All-American time.

"I was tired after the 50, I didn't warm down after the medal ceremony," said Ciesla, who is competing in the short course world championships in December in Canada. "I had to get my hand on the wall. I had to come back. We have a great team and to be this close and have a shot at winning was amazing. We knew we were so close."

Sophomore Hannah Virgin also won an individual state title for Pine Crest. Virgin won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:04.06, an automatic All-American.

"They were all really good swimmers and I competed with them before so I knew what they were capable of," Virgin said. "I'm really happy."

The Panthers won the 200-yard freestyle relay in an automatic All-American time of 1:35.13 with freshman Andrea Santander, sophomore Alexandra Meszaros, senior Jamie Flores and Ciesla. Santander was a member of last year's state 2A champion Gulliver Prep before transferring.

University School junior Patrick Groters was unable to defend his state title in the 200-yard individual medley with Bishop Verot's Santi Corredor winning in 1:47.63. Groters was second in 1:48.52.

Groters came back to win his first state title in the 100-yard backstroke in 49.19 ahead of Bolles' Matt Serra in 50.30.

"Before the race, I knew it was going to be a tough challenge," Groters said. "I went easier in the morning and took it out fast in finals. I know going in next year there will be another challenge."

Ransom Everglades' Kyla Valls defended her title in the 200-yard freestyle winning in 1:45.96, an automatic All-American time.

"I just wanted to go out fast from the beginning, that's how I hold on to the lead if I am leading," Valls said. "I held on for the last 100."

Westminster Academy junior Jessica Nava was the standout of the night. She broke her own state record for the second time in two weeks in the 100-yard butterfly to defend her state title in 53.45, an automatic All-American time.

Nava also won the 100-yard backstroke in 54.55, also an automatic All-American time. She was also a member of the ninth place 200-yard medley relay team (1:51.54) and led off the 16th place 200-yard freestyle relay (1:44.05).

"I knew the 100 fly would be a close race," Nava said. "I knew if I swam my race it would turn out well. I was happy with both my races. I was just thinking about winning."

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