Coach after swim coach around Hillsborough County gushes about how strong their girls are.
From Newsome to Academy of the Holy Names to Plant to Tampa Prep to Wharton to Sickles to Berkeley Prep to Plant City to …
"I'd say the quality of girls goes up and down from year to year across the area, but this year I have to say it's way up," Academy of the Holy Names coach Bill Shaffer said. "It's an exciting time."
Add up the talent, and the impending points, and it's possible Hillsborough County could have teams finish in the top five, or better, in every classification at the state meet.
Individually, the medal haul also could be bigger than at any time in many years. Watch for these names: Newsome's Maddie Hess, Merrill Wilson and Barbara Caraballo: Plant's Emily Clifford, Tara McGowan, Carter Flynn and Ally Donahue; Academy's Clare Fleming, Tori Litschgi, Konner Brewer, Alex Nuyianes and Margaret Shumake; Tampa Prep's Savannah Savitt and Carylyn Waite; Plant City's Bailey Bowden; and Wharton's Dee Sopapong.
All those girls have potential to swim in a state final as an individual or on a relay. A few of them have legitimate shots to win state titles.
Shaffer cleared to swim
It took almost a month for the appeals process to run its course, but freshman Tommy Shaffer was cleared last week by the Florida High School Athletic Association to swim for his father, Bill Shaffer, at Jesuit.
Before the season, however, that logical scenario was in jeopardy.
The potential sticking point began with the fact that Tommy Shaffer trained the past year with his dad at the Academy Aquatic Club.
According to the FHSAA, Tommy Shaffer's move to Jesuit violated an FHSAA bylaw regarding the affiliation between club teams and FHSAA member schools.
The problem was that Tommy Shaffer attended public school at Coleman Middle and was zoned for Plant. Shaffer, however, chose to attend Jesuit for his freshman year.
Upon review by an FHSAA appeals board, Shaffer unanimously was granted the right to swim for his dad at Jesuit.
Shaffer, a 6-foot-3, 14-year-old, has never swum at a highly competitive level.
"The best news is that we got everything cleared up," Shaffer said. "Now we can move ahead."
The battle for spirit
In case you missed it, that was Sickles coach Scott Parlett wearing the green tutu at the City Relays.
He was standing in front of a group of green body-painted, wig-wearing students holding the spirit award trophy.
"I work these kids so hard that sometimes it's nice to have a little fun," Parlett said. "They asked me to wear the tutu, and I figured as hard as I work them, it was the least I could do."
The annual battle for the spirit award at the City Relays seems to escalate every year with Sickles, Hillsborough and Steinbrenner bringing their spirit "A" games, which includes lots of dancing to booming music between events.