By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
PUNTA GORDA — For years, the Port Charlotte High School boys and girls swim team has used rival Charlotte as a barometer for how their team has progressed.
In the past year, the girls have discovered they can not only swim with them, but also beat them.
The boys? Not so much.
Still, the Pirate girls’ 155-141 victory over the Tarpons has shown them and many others in the area their team has arrived.
The victory adds to their ledger of wins over Charlotte, dating back to their come-from-behind county meet win last season. They also beat them early in the season.
“We’re growing and working and all the hard work they put in when they were little and swimming in club is paying off,” said Port Charlotte coach J.R. Whaley. “We like to compete against Charlotte. It’s always a good challenge.”
Port Charlotte girls won all but one individual event, with Makenzie Miller winning the 200 IM and 100 back, Amber Hrabak winning the 500 free and 100 breaststroke and Caitlin Moss-Solomon winning the 50 and 100 freestyle.
Tonirae Burke won the 200 free, while Arianna Janson-Dugan captured the 100 butterfly.
“We’ve buckled down on our training and we encourage each other. We’re really a team about it,” said Miller, a junior. “A lot of the girls are hoping for states.”
Becca Parnell took the one-meter diving for Charlotte, while Charlotte relay teams won the 200 medley and the 200 free.
Charlotte’s girls were led by freshman Micah Barnes. Who took part in both relay wins and was narrowly defeated by Miller in the 200 IM.
“I can improve on my performance, but overall, I think we did really good and we support each other,” Barnes said. “We’re doing really good.”
Charlotte coach Jeff Cain wasn’t too worried about the girls, as he has been training the kids especially hard, including a workout session before the meet, and seeing what he has to work with for the end of the season.
“We’re seeing what we have. We’re inexperienced. We have some talent, so we’re building and waiting for the end of the year,’ Cain said. “We were a little flat tonight, but I was pleased. It’s been the training, we expected this.”
There wasn’t nearly the drama for the boys, as Charlotte won handily 196-90.
Yahia El Hamshary won the 50 and 100 free, while Dylan Hacker took the 100 fly and the 500 freestyle.
Tom Nelson won the 200 freestyle, Cooper Whitten won the 200 IM, Dalton Larson won the diving, Blake Thurman captured the 100 back and Evan Flores won the 100 breaststroke.
Port Charlotte’s 200 medley relay team was the only one to take the top spot.
Despite the effort, Hacker gave himself only a mixed review as the training has been tough early on.
“I think we did good. It was a team effort. I did good on my fly, but my 500 was a little off. Right now, the practices are harder because coach is training us up,” Hacker said. “I almost made states last year, so I really hope to get there this year.”