Last week, Land O' Lakes boys swim coach Barbara Hayes unexpectedly announced that she would be stepping down as coach after this season to spend more time with her family.
Hayes said she was motivated to return for this one last year by the team's dominance of the Sunshine Athletic Conference crowns, which her team had won nine straight heading into Saturday's SAC meet at the New Tampa YMCA Center.
Her Gators didn't disappoint, putting together another strong performance to nab Hayes and Land O' Lakes their 10th consecutive SAC championship. Land O' Lakes girls won their fourth straight to complete the sweep for the Gators.
"The first couple years we had to build to win those," Hayes said. "Then we had a period of time when we peaked and we had incredible depth. The difference this year is we did it with 14 swimmers and one diver. The talent across the county is incredible."
The Gators were able to edge out their rivals to the west side of Land O' Lakes in Sunlake, 382-311.
Though, Land O' Lakes didn't have many first-place finishes, the Gators showed once again that their depth is still there. Sophomore Jordan Wheeler did clinch wins in the 100 backstroke (55.71) and 200 freestyle (1:50.48). The Gators also won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:45.70.
Mitchell finished third with 260 points while Wiregrass Ranch (237 points) and River Ridge (204) rounded out the top five teams.
Mitchell's Devin McCaffrey set two SAC records on the day, as the senior broke records in the 100 butterfly (51.28) and 100 breaststroke (59.01). Another notable on the boys side was Wesley Chapel's Caleb Zeleznock, who notched victories in the 200 IM (2:09.07) and 100 freestyle (50.21).
Land O' Lakes easily won the girls title, scoring 114 and 119 points better than Mitchell and Sunlake, respectively.
Wiregrass Ranch, the host of the event, took fourth with 320 points but set several SAC records on the day. The Bulls' Athena Cimino broke the 2002 record from Land O' Lakes' Margie Chamberlain in the 200 freestyle (1:59.29) to set the new bar at 1:58.01. Cimino also broke the 1999 record of Gulf's Julie Muckler in the 100 freestyle (56.05) in 54.07. Wiregrass Ranch's relay teams also set two records, the 200 freestyle (1:44.64) and 400 freestyle (3:51.51).
"I could barely watch," Wiregrass Ranch coach Tanner Schmitz said of supporting Cimino and his relay teams. "Great day of swimming. Every girl was putting up their fastest times, backing each other up and not letting each other down. My girls swam great and I'm happy."
Mitchell's Taylor Anderson took wins in the 50 (24.83) and 100 freestyles (1:12.60) and Pasco's Sarah Kate Massey won the 100 backstroke in 1:05.20.