Stotler snags gold in butterfly

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 11/18/20

STUART - Clay High senior swimmer Sara Stotler had to endure yet a second second place finish in the first individual championship event of her 2020 season; in the 200 individual medley, but the …

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Stotler snags gold in butterfly


STUART - Clay High senior swimmer Sara Stotler had to endure yet a second second place finish in the first individual championship event of her 2020 season; in the 200 individual medley, but the steely-eyed veteran regrouped to dominate about two hours later in the 100 butterfly to get her second state title as swimmers finished off the Class 2A championships on Saturday in Stuart. Stotler won gold in the 100 butterfly in 2018.

Earlier in the day, Stotler finished second in the 200 individual medley and also was part of a sixth place finish for the 200 medley relay.

"Sara swam magnificently," said Clay coach Carol McDougall. "She had said she wanted the state record in the fly, but missed by just a lttle."

For Stotler, who admitted that chasing the 100 butterfly school record held by Clay's Sherridon Dressel had been on her mind, had also competed Friday at the US Open in Sarasota and had a three hour drive to get to Stuart for the FHSAA meet.

"My time in the 100 fly was a new lifetime best for me," said Stotler, who won convincingly in 53.35 seconds to set a Clay record of Dressel's. "I was shooting for a 52 second finish, but a 53.3 was like crazy because of coming over from nationals on Friday. To swim that well as I did on Saturday was pretty good."

From the start horn, Stotler crushed the opening 50 with a 25.41 split over Tampa Robinson's Avery Hawker's 25.80 before punching up a dominating second 50 to win by nearly three seconds; 53.35-56.12.

"I wasn't really focusing on winning but more just embracing the moment," said Stotler. "I was more just going for a best time because it being my senior year."

Stotler, swimming for the Planet Swim Aquatics club team, swam Friday at the 2020 Toyota US Open Championships held in Sarasota with a 37th place finish in the 100 butterfly long course in 1:01.21. Stotler also swam the 200 free, placing 45th in 2:04.86.

For McDougall, who has seen the likes of a family with a last name of Dressel and a guy called Heath, seeing the end of a fantastic career go with a best time and a gold medal was part of what brings her back year after year after 16 years on the pool deck.

"She looked awesome; her turns were good, her breakouts were good and her underwaters were good," said McDougall. "I kind of started the Clay swim program a long time ago with some other people and it has been a blessing to see these kinds of swims year after year."

In the 100 butterfly, Stotler was second last year in 54.35 to Blair Stoneburg of Jensen Beach who won by just .01 second.

In her first individual event of the day, Stotler faced off again against Pine Crest's Julia Podkoscielny in the 200 individual medley in a rematch of last year's final won by Podkoscielny.

Stotler had hinted that the rematch was on her mind in an interview two weeks ago as she dominated the district and regions lineups prior to arriving in Stuart.

With both swimmers hitting the water in the first championship event of the night; the 200 medley relay with Podkoscielny as leadoff leg and Stotler as third leg, in breaststroke, the pair got a chance to eyeball each other's readiness for the 200IM battle in less than an hour.

With the 200 freestyle sandwiched between the relay and Stotler's 200 individual medley, the savvy senior took to keeping her mind right and her cooldown, warmup procedures in tact for an anticipated very fast final.

"Sara had the 200 medley relay boys, both 200 free finals and an awards ceremony to get her mind right for the 200 individual medley," said McDougall. "She is used to big meets with close time schedules."

In the boys 200 free, Orange Park senior Jose Medina finished ninth overall with a 1:44.89 time with Jake Sciscente of Lincoln Park winning in 1:40.35. Medina qualified 10th in 1:46.32 and dropped nearly two seconds in his B Final swim. Medina was 19th in 2019 in 1:47.35.

In the 100 free, Medina finished 20th in 49.92.

In the 200 medley relay, Pine Crest won convincingly with a 1:44.00 split that was five seconds ahead of runnerup Holy Name with Clay, without senior backstroker Kinsey Williamson, finishing sixth in 1:51.76.

"The relay came in eighth ranked and swam great to get sixth," said McDougall.

Junior Marley Meyers opened for Clay with Elysia Addison (14th in 100 breaststroke}, Stotler and Jayde Dillevig finishing the task. Clay finished eighth in the 200 free relay with Audrey Ivy on the roster with Dillevig, Stotler and Addison. Pine Crest won. Orange Park finished 16th in the 200 free relay with Ryan Pritchard (23rd in 200IM), Bruce Arauz, Josiah Sabino and Parker Meeks.

Also for Orange Park Jalen Randall was 10th in the 100 breaststroke with Pritchard 18th.

With the 200 freestyle done, Stotler stepped up to the start block with Podkoscielny in a match that featured the two best girls in Class 2A by nearly five seconds.

"She's awesome and we talk," said Stotler. "She said she was really focused on the state meet and didn't compete at the national meet."

Stotler, as his her style, blasted the first 50, the butterfly, in 25.65 to Podkoscielny's 26.09 which was a relook at how last year's race opened.

In the backstroke, where Podkoscielny would eventually be crowned 100 backstroke state champion later in the meet, Stotler lost her fast butterfly lead; 56.11 to 55.19 to create enough of a gap for the win in 1:59.14 to Stotler's 2:01.32; both national age group top times. Podkoscielny won in 2;00.46 last year with Stotler second in 2:02.09.

With the second place done, Stotler reset her mind and body to not go home with two silvers again with her intent on the 100 butterfly very apparent.

In team points for the women, Clay was 10th with 88 points with Pine Crest winning at 338 over Gulliver Prep.

For the boys, Orange Park was 33rd with 18 points. Jesuit High won with 277 over Pine Crest.


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