By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Back and forth went the Manta Rays and Thunder in the water Wednesday evening at Lemon Bay’s home pool.
The final scores were so close they even had to do a recount.
Fitting in an election year, and fortunately for the Manta Rays, the final tally came out in their favor.
Lemon Bay’s boys and girls swimming teams edged the Out-of-Door Academy 312-289 in a quad-meet. The girls ultimately tied with a score of 146 but it was the boys that pushed the Manta Rays to victory, outscoring the Thunder 166-143.
North Port came in third, 332 points behind Lemon Bay, while Venice finished fourth.
“It was really close. We figured it would probably be between 25-30 points,” Lemon Bay coach Dawn Hall said.
It was a balanced effort from the boys, with three swimmers each winning an event. Gage Denson won the 50-yard freestyle (23.62), Kevin Mayes dipped for first in the 1-meter drive (210.80) and Evan Burger took the crown in the 100-yard freestyle (51.44). Burger and Denson were also part of the 200-yard freestyle relay team, along with Jed Fazler and Zach Willison, that won first place (1:36.98).
Lemon Bay’s Hunter Scott and Abby Shea helped the girls keep pace with the Out-of-Door Academy as each won two individual events. Scott swam the fastest in the 200-meter IM (2:18.79) and 100-yard butterfly (1:04.76) while Shea reached the wall first in the 100-yard freestyle (58.54) and the 100-yard backstroke (1:07.73).
Shea and Scott also joined forces with Ashley Wik and Margo McCoy to win the 200-yard medley relay (2:04.13). Wik, Shea and Scott also finished first in the 200-yard freestyle relay with Morgan Shamasian (1:51.95).
Hall says most of her swimmers have already achieved their preseason goals midway through the season.
“They swam awesome,” said Hall of both teams. “This is the middle of the season. This is where it’s going to be the hardest and they’re coming up with some of their best times so they did really well. They were really excited.”
One pleasant surprise for the Manta Rays Wednesday was senior Sam Beaugrand, even though he didn’t win an event. Beaugrand helped the team earn points with a third place finish in the 50-yard freestyle (25.24) and a fourth place finish in the 100-yard freestyle (59.05).
Why is that noteworthy?
Well, Beaugrand is originally a surfer and didn’t join the swim team until two weeks into the season. A week ago his times were around 26 seconds and 1:05 in those two events.
The senior is dropping his times at such a fast rate that Hall couldn’t stop praising him after the meet. Needless to say, Beaugrand is glad he picked up the sport in his final year of high school.
“For my first year swimming, I came in late into the season so I’ve only been swimming for about four weeks now and I’m definitely doing a lot better than I thought,” Beaugrand said.
“I felt like I might do well just because it’s kind of all the same muscle groups so I figured I’d give it a go. It’s my senior year so I want to try every sport I can.”
If Beaugrand keeps up his progress at his current rate, he could be looking at some district hardware in a few weeks. But in the meantime, he’s just glad his team pulled out a slim victory as it readies for Saturday’s big meet at the Selby Aquatic Center in Sarasota.
“We all did the best we could,” Beaugrand said. “We definitely did. We all gave it 110 percent.”