STUART - With an explosive breaststroke leg by Emma Grimm, the Fleming Island High girls 200 medley relay swim team followed in the footsteps of their boys swim team that lit up opposing relay squads for three consecutive gold medals as they stormed to their first gold medal at the Class 3A swimming and diving championships held Saturday in Stuart.
"The medley race was incredibly close," said Fleming Island coach Jordan Bright. "The top three teams finished within .53 seconds of each other. Sarah Grimm got us out quickly with a greak backstroke lead leg. Emma Grimm built a lead with a blistering breaststroke leg, Abree Clark maintained our advantage with her excellent 50 Fly leg, and Christine Johnson anchored it masterfully and brought us home with a perfect finish."
Fleming Island reclassified to Class 3A this season with the boys golds in the 200 free relay coming in Class 4A.
"The legacy of the boys' 200 Freestyle Relay "3-peat" will be hard to match," said Bright. "The boys' put Fleming Island "on the map" and now it's the girls turn to be a force to be reckoned with"
For Bright and assistant coach Jacqueline Kroggel, a former collegiate swimmer, the results of the meet were not quite a surprise as Bright has quietly noted the his quartet of Sarah and Emma Grimm; both juniors, Abree Clark, also a junior, and sophomore Christine Johnson would be in the mix for at least a top three finish, if not the top spot.
"Six titles in the last five years; four of them were relay titles," said Bright. "Our girls also finished second to a very strong Chiles team in the 200 Free Relay. Our boys fought their way into the Top 8 to secure a spot in the Finals as well."
In 2018, the same quartet finished eighth at the Class 4A championships with a 1:50.12 finish and a seed time of 1:49.98.
The Golden Eagles' winning time Saturday was 1:48.35 just a hair ahead of Fort Myers as runnerup in 1:48.85.
In the race, Fort Myers held the early lead with Sarah Grimm staying close to Fort Myers' Olivia McMurray, the eventual 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle state champion, in the opening backstroke leadoff; 26.74-27.02.
In leg two, the breaststroke, with Grimm sister Emma rallying the Golden Eagles to first place with a 30.48-32.02 split to set the stage for a dramatic finish.
Grimm's lethal breaststroke leg was enough of a cushion for Abree Clark in butterfly and Christine Johnson in freestyle to hold off a late charge by Fort Myers for the win with Gainesville High third at 1:48.88.
Fleming Island registered the fastest time in prelims with a 1:48.68 with Fort Myers cruising into the final behind Gainesville with a 1:50.23. Gainesville timed in at 1:49.29.
The same Fleming Island quartet would take second to Chiles in the 200 free relay with a 1:38.48 time to Chiles' 1:36.69.
"Our girls squad is a powerhouse right now, and we will be stronger next season," said Bright. "The entire squad is pumped up by this success and the FIHS girls' version of the "Four Horsemen" will be bettered by new and improving teammates next season."
Fort Myers, with three of the four swimmers in the 200 medley relay, would finish the meet with a gold medal in the 400 free relay. Chiles was team champion for the girls with 240 points, Fort Myers fourth at 136.5 and Fleming Island sixth at 127.
"Class 3A was a good move for us as we are now competing against schools our size," said Bright. "It is still fiercely competitive with new rivals already established very quickly with Chiles, Gainesville, and Fletcher."
In individual events, Emma Grimm finished fifth in the 50 freestyle with a 24.38 split behind a 1-2 finish of 23.00 and 23.10 and also 11th in the 100 backstroke in 1:07.47 to winner 1:03.87; Ashlynn Niewenhuis finished 14th in the 200 freestyle with a 1:58.07 split to winner's time of 1:49.35 and Christine Johnson finished 13th in the 100 butterfly with a 59.76 split to the winning time of 54.95.
Sarah Grimm finished fifth in the 100 backstroke in 58.22 with Chiles's winning in 55.87 and also finished ninth in the 100 freestyle with a 53.91 split to the winner's 51.37.
For the Fleming Island boys, the 200 free relay finished eighth; Alec Bilyeu, Joseph Cannon, Ernest Jones and Justin Lebesch, in 1:30.22 to the winner Fletcher at 1:25.38.
In the Class 4A swim championships, where Oakleaf was the lone county team, freshman Haylie Pinola finished 22nd in the 50 free; the girls 200 medley relay (Pinola, Kelsie Craig, Kylie Loving, Lauren Galloway) finished 15th and sophomore Kylie Loving finished 13th in the 100 breaststroke.