ORANGE PARK - With the Fleming Island High girls relay teams as strong as last years 200 medley title and second place 200 free relay with all four swimmers; Emma and Sara Grimm, Abree Clark and …
ORANGE PARK - With the Fleming Island High girls relay teams as strong as last years 200 medley title and second place 200 free relay with all four swimmers; Emma and Sara Grimm, Abree Clark and Christine Johnson, as strong returning, Orange Park High senior Jose Medina and Clay High senior Sara Stotler are both returning to secure their own titles after visits to last year’s championship meet.
Stotler, second in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly, looks to
return to the state meet to retrieve her first title, but not necessarily in the two events she near-missed in last year.
“I feel pretty good this year, but with everything that happened since March, it’s been hectic,” said Stotler, who has committed to swim at the University of Tennessee next year. “I was going to a meet to get my Olympic Trials cut when we got the call that the meet was cancelled because of the COVID. The high school season has been challenging with all the restrictions and all.”
Stotler noted that last year’s state meet was en route to her going to the Winter Nationals in December.
This year, the nationals are set for the two days prior to state because of the COVID.
“Instead of a one day national meet, the nationals are being held in eight different locations because of the COVID so I’m swimming Thursday and Friday in Sarasota at nationals, then Saturday and Sunday in Stuart at the state meet,” said Stotler. “It’s crazy and a lot of swimming but I’m training for it just like last year.”
Medina stormed into the state meet last year after winning the 100 free at regions by a touch in a tied time at 48.84 and a third in the 200 free by less than one second in 1:47.95, and though his times improved slightly at state; 48.51 for 11th in the 100 and 1:47.12 for 19th in the 200, this year is different.
“His workload up to this point has been tremendous,” said Orange Park High swim coach Susan Johnson. “He should go in the 50 and 100 frees and taking him out of the 200, I think, has improved his speed. We’ve improved to make him faster.”
For Medina, the return to the state meet has been a journey of a new country, new school and new pool and training since arriving at Orange Park High School.
“I started swimming in the back pool of a friends house in Puerto Rico and then I went to a swim team in the city to try out,” said Medina, who was interviewed with his mother, Melisa Pagan, at the Argyle Pool. “The guy who trained me at the first pool was the pool maintenance guy.”
In his home country of Puerto Rico, Medina found his passion for the sports via a workout that included a host of local swim stalwarts that invited Medina to join them.
“We were doing 100 meter repeats at what was supposed to be one minute, 15 seconds, but I was hitting 1:10s against the big guys,” said Medina. “The feeling I got when I knew I could swim like that and still be strong at the end to do more let me know I could take this to the next level. That was when I was 14.”
Johnson noted that Medina came to America to train at the Bolles School and there he met Charles Johnson, Susan’s son.
“He’s the one that got me to talk to coach Johnson and eventually come here,” said Medina. “She knows all about big meets.”
Johnson, six years at Orange Park, has three Olympic Trials on her resume plus some stellar splits for the famous Mission Viego team out of California. Johnson swam collegiate at the University of Georgia.
“He is very shy and kind of was in awe at the state meet,” said Johnson, who coaches with former Fleming Island butterfly specialist Kyle Casias. “This year, he is focused much more on doing what it takes to finish.”
Medina noted that his inspiration for medals has become by way of watching American Olympian Michael Phelps outtouched South Africa’s Chad Le Clos in the 200 butterfly in the RIO Olympics.
“When I saw him do that, I said, I want to do that,” said Medina.
District 1-4A, hosted by Nease at Ormond Beach YMCA Fri., Oct. 23, 1 p.m. swim finals, Thurs., Oct. 22 Dive finals 9 a.m. Cecil Field Aquatic Center
Oakleaf, Atlantic Coast, Bartram Trail, Buchholz, Creekside, Mandarin, Nease, Sandalwood, West Port
2019: Women 1. Creekside, 2. Buchholz, 3. Bartram Trail, 5. Oakleaf
Boys: 1. Creekside, 2. Nease, 3. Mandarin, 7. Oakleaf
District 2-3A, hosted by Panama City High, Frank Brown Park, Mon., Oct. 19 Swim finals 12:30 p.m., Diving finals 11 a.m.
Fleming Island, Middleburg, Chiles, Columbia, Forest, Gainesville, Leon, Lincoln
2019: Womens 1. Chiles, 2. Fleming Island, 3. Lincoln, 7. Middleburg
Boys 1. Gainesville, 2. Chiles, 3. Lincoln, 5. Fleming Island, 7. Middleburg
District 3-2A, hosted by hosted by Clay at Cecil Field Swim, Diving at Pine Forest High. Swim finals Wed., Oct. 28 girls 10 a.m Boys 3 p.m., Pine Forest High Diving Mon., Oct. 26, 2 p.m.
Clay, Orange Park, Ridgeview, Bishop Kenny, Ed White, Menendez, Paxon, Raines, Stanton, Terry Parker, Westside
2019: Girls 1. Stanton, 2. Menendez, 3. Clay, 6. Orange Park, 7. Ridgeview.
Boys 1. Stanton, 2. Bishop Kenny, 3. OPHS, 6. RHS, 8. Clay
District 2-1A, hosted by Episcopal at Episcopal High, Tues., Oct. 27 girls finals 9:30 a.m, boys finals 1:30 p.m., Diving finals Mon., Oct. 26 2 p.m.
SJCDS, Baldwin, Bishop Snyder, Bolles, Episcopal, Hilliard, Providence, St. Joseph, Wolfson
2019: Girls 1. Bolles, 2. Episcopal, 3. Providence. Boys 1. Bolles, 2. Episcopal, 3. Providence, 5. SJCDS