STUART - Clay High sophomore swim sensation Sara Stotler entered the Class 2A swim championships as a going-away favorite in two events and come home with a gold medal in one; a fastest time in …
STUART - Clay High sophomore swim sensation Sara Stotler entered the Class 2A swim championships as a going-away favorite in two events and come home with a gold medal in one; a fastest time in another and a fourth place medal in a relay for the Lady Blue Devils in Saturday’s Class 2A swim championships held in Stuart.
“Sara did what we all expected that she would do,” said Clay coach Carol McDougall. “She was top ranked in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly going in and she had the top times in both at the state meet.”
In Class 1A, St. Johns Country Day School senior Nick Rogers finished second in the 100 butterfly in 49.18 seconds and seventh in the 200 free.
Unfortunately, in the Class 2A 200 individual medley preliminary heats, Stotler was disqualified for an illegal turn from backstroke to breaststroke though she finished in a time two seconds faster than the finals’ time.
“There are only a few swimmers that do the turn she does when going from backstroke to breaststroke in the IM and they called her for not being correct off the wall,” said McDougall. “She had the fastest time though because they disqualified her after the finish.”
Stotler felt good about the event, but will come back next year just as confident.
“I am completely confident I completed a legal turn and clean pull out,” Stotler said. “The IM is an event I swim very frequently and I know it well. I actually felt good about the prelim and was shocked. Coach Kyle (Casias) always tells me to focus on the positive takeaways and move on to the next swim, so that’s what I did Saturday. Crushing it is always the goal.”
In the 100 butterfly, McDougall commented that Stotler was facing off against defending champion Emily Cordovi of Gulliver Prep and Wolfson senior Hannah Sykes, who chased Stotler in both the district and region meets with Stotler taking both titles.
“I could not breathe in that one the race was so close,” said McDougall. “Sara wanted that one bad, especially after the 200 IM mess.”
In the final, Stotler broke out from the first 50 with a 28.96 second split with Cordovi at 29.54 and Sykes at 29.74. Fort Walton Beach’s Katie Balent was fourth at 29.77 as the four girls hit the turn wall in unison.
“I could see her (Cordovi) out of the corner of my eye and I knew I had more in the tank for the second 50,” said Stotler. “I know her underwaters are her strength, but I felt strong and brought it home solid.”
From there, Stotler inched away after the third turn to win in 54.82 with Cordovi second at 55.02 and Sykes third at 55.86.
“I couldn’t see Hannah,” said Stotler. “ I know I can race that 100 fly faster and I’m really excited about nationals next week and junior nationals in two weeks. I really wasn’t expecting to win. I just wanted to hang close to Emily.”
Balent faded from the early lightning pace to fourth in 56.60.
Stotler swam a 54.92 at the region meet with Sykes behind her at 56.42.
“Sherridon Dressel still holds the school record, but I don’t know for how much longer,” said McDougall. “That was a fast race for all three girls.”
In the girls 200 medley relay; with Kinsey Williams, Elysia Addison, Sara Stotler and Anna Stotler, Clay finished fourth in 1:50.85 behind Gulliver Prep’s winning time of 1:46.03.
“Anna Stotler is the lone senior of that group,” said McDougall. “In the 200 free relay, Jayde Dillevig, a sophomore, showed off a 50 free time that surprised everyone, even herself.”
Dillevig, who McDougall said was finishing most of her 50 free segments in 27 seconds or so, blasted through her relay leg in 25.57 to push the Blue Devils relay to a seventh place finish behind Sara Stotler’s 23.15 anchor leg.
“She stepped up big to end her year,” said MacDougall. “That was as big a split as any today for our young girls swimmers.”
In other events, Elysia Addison, a sophomore, finished 15th in the 100 breaststroke, Anna Stotler, a senior, finished 14th in the 200 free and the girls 200 free relay; Anna Stotler, Addison, Jayde Dillevig and Sara Stotler, finished seventh.
For the Clay boys, Zach Eubanks, a senior, finished 21st in the 100 free.
Also in Class 2A, Orange Park’s boys dynamic duo; senior Jacob Coutant and junior Daniel Hinkle, both got to finals in their respective events with Coutant eighth in the 200 free and ninth in the 100 butterfly and Hinkle 15th in the 500 freestyle and 15th in the 200 freestyle.
Orange Park’s 200 free relay; Coutant, Keenan Restall, Aidan Siebold and Hinkle finished 13th.