Thursday's Class 2A state swim meet could have been a disaster for Mitchell High.
When Coach Joe Lampkin was suspended by the school administration Tuesday, the six swimmers headed to the Central Florida YMCA Aquatic Center were left without a coach.
But that didn't stop the Mustangs from completing the most productive season in school history. Freshman Devin McCaffrey led the way with two second-place finishes and teamed with Alex Wegener, Ian Ondrejka and Gavin Hunt to place sixth in the 200 medley relay (1:42.94).
McCaffrey, who was seeded fourth in the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke heading into the meet, struggled in the morning preliminaries - qualifying eighth in the butterfly and seventh in the breaststroke. Only the top eight advance to the championship finals.
But he bounced back in the finals to swim the 100 fly in 51.40 and the 100 breast in 1:00.28. His butterfly time earned him All-America consideration.
"Happy ... can't complain," McCaffrey said after accepting his 100 breaststroke medal. "I wanted to get a little faster times. I wanted to drop a little more in both events. I wanted to break a minute in breaststroke, but it didn't work out that way."
The freshman McCaffrey has plenty of swimming to look forward to. But senior Andrew Wert thought his only state experience was going to be watching from the bleachers. Wert was an alternate on the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay teams. In an unselfish move, McCaffrey withdrew himself from the 200 free relay to give Wert a chance to swim in the state meet. The relay of Wegener, Ondrejka, Wert and Hunt finished 16th, with a time of 1:36.78.
"I wanted one of my teammates to swim," McCaffrey said. "I wanted to give a senior one more shot."
Mitchell's lone female competitor, Mazie Siddens, finished 18th in the 100 butterfly (1:00.85) and 24th in the 200 individual medley (2:20.24). Hunt was 21st in the 50 freestyle (22.89) and Ondrejka finished 24th (1:07.42) in the 100 breaststroke.
Wiregrass Ranch's Rebecca Pindral completed a remarkable state series by finishing eighth in the 100 breaststroke. The junior broke her nose before the Sunshine Athletic Conference meet and was unable to compete. At district, she couldn't dive off the starting blocks and had to start her races in the water, but she still advanced to the region finals in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
Other Pasco County finishes at the state meet were:
Girls: Lettie Clark of Zephyrhills in the 200 freestyle (20th, 2:01.53); Alex Pierovich of Land O' Lakes in the 200 individual medley (11th, 2:13.89) and the 100 breaststroke (16th, 1:13.54); Karley Nelson of Land O' Lakes in the 50 freestyle (22nd, 26.26); Lauren Lynch of Land O' Lakes in diving (22nd, 144.20); Beth Tillman of Sunlake in diving (24th, 125.50); Lindsay Gorgen of Zephyrhills in the 100 freestyle (21st, 56.32) and 100 backstroke (24th, 1:04.75).
Boys: Joe Geschke of Ridgewood in 200 freestyle (12th, 1:47.51) and 500 freestyle (19th, 4:57.35); Ken Betancourt-Reyes of Zephyrhills in diving (20th, 220.25); Hunter Swartsel of Gulf in the 100 freestyle (14th, 49.56) and the 100 backstroke (19th, 57.19).