SWIMMING & DIVING: 2017 season preview

By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports

Swimming is a rare sport in this area where both the best from the boys and the best from the girls return this season.

Charlotte’s Dylan Hacker is still just a junior and will look to build on a strong sophomore year where he set the school record at the state meet in the 100-yard breaststroke, finishing sixth. He also finished 13th in the 200yard individual medley.

Lemon Bay’s Hunter Scott is coming off a junior season where she placed second in the 200-yard freestyle and fourth in the 500 freestyle at states. She still hasn’t decided which two events she’ll dominate in this year, but diving might be added to the repertoire. 

Both of them were The Sun’s all-area swimmers of the year in 2016, with an all-area team filled with plenty of graduating seniors such as North Port’s Josh Mendieta, Port Charlotte’s Caitlin Moss-Solomon, Lemon Bay’s Evan Burger and Charlotte’s Becca Parnell.

With their departures, plus more, that leaves plenty of room for a new wave of swimmers to take control of the area.

FOUR TO WATCH

Gage Denson, Lemon Bay, Jr.: Whether it was in diving or swimming, Denson had a great sophomore campaign where he collected a more than a few medals in the postseason.

Micah Barnes, Charlotte, So.: As only a freshman, Barnes placed top-seven in four different events last year and then went on to reach top-15 at regionals in those same events.

Mike Sickles, North Port, So.: He’s the Bobcats’ record holder in the backstroke, and after performing well at national meets this summer, has his eye set on more school records as just a sophomore.

Makenzie Miller, Port Charlotte, Sr.:Looking to reach states for the fourth time, Miller will look to end her high school career on a high note, building on a strong junior season.

THE BOYS 

LEMON BAY

COACH: Dawn Hall / Julie Goodwin
DISTRICT 2A-10: Cape Coral, Cypress Lake, Dunbar, Golden Gate, Island Coast, Lely, Lemon Bay, Mariner, North Fort Myers, Port Charlotte.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Sam Beaugrand, Evan Burger, Kevin Mayes.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Jed Fazler (Sr.), Zach Willison (Sr.), Gage Denson, Jr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Trey Scott (Fr.), Garrett Bauer (Fr.).
OUTLOOK: The Manta Rays lost 12 seniors from a year ago and some significant pieces to their success last season. But the good news is they return some swimmers in Fazler and Denson, who provide strong competition at the top of the Lemon Bay depth chart. Newcomers Scott and Bauer will also provide a spark on a team that is still looking for a top-three finish at districts. 

PORT CHARLOTTE

COACH: J.R. Whaley
DISTRICT 2A-10:Cape Coral, Cypress Lake, Dunbar, Golden Gate, Island Coast, Lely, Lemon Bay, Mariner, North Fort Myers, Port Charlotte.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Kevin Traubirdge, Xavier Grijalva, Robert Bucholz.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Trevor Bloom (Sr.), Tanner Bloom (So.), Logan Bernhard (Sr.), Luke Merritt (Sr.), Kevin Janson- Dugan (So.).
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Eduardo Duarte (Jr.) Alex Benitze (Fr.), Jack Cogley (Fr.), Karl Myers (Fr.).
OUTLOOK: This could be an exciting season for the Port Charlotte boys. They return quite a few swimmers who had successful seasons last year to lead what is the biggest team they’ve had in Whaley’s eight season. Injuries filled the Pirates toward the end of last season, and they still managed third at districts. Look for an improvement on that placement with the continued growth of swimmers like Bernhard and Trevor Bloom. 

CHARLOTTE

COACH: Jeff Cain
DISTRICT 3A-9:Barron Collier, Charlotte, East Lee County, Estero, Fort Myers, Gulf Coast, Ida Baker, Lehigh, Naples, Palmetto Ridge, Riverdale South Fort Myers.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Blake Thurman, Yahia El Hamshary, Dalton Larson, Evan Flores, Joel Almeida.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Dylan Hacker (Jr.), Tyler Coward (Jr.), Carl Eisen (Jr.), Casey Keller (Jr.), Tarrin Gallup (So.).
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Josh Eaton (Jr.), Daniel Pulido (Sr.) OUTLOOK: Just like with the girls, the boys team is younger and smaller than they have been in previous years. Their goal is to improve in the district and possibly even reachstates. A state-placer in Hacker will be a strong leader at the top, while newcomers Eaton and Pulido, who both moved here from out of the area, provide added experience for the Tarpons.

NORTH PORT

COACH: James Noonan
DISTRICT 4A-6:Countryside, Lakewood Ranch, Manatee, North Port, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, Riverview, Sarasota, St. Petersburg.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Jose Mendieta, Tristan Guinn.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Mike Sickles (So.), Adam Prine (Jr.), Mackenzie Minchinton (So.), Spencer Dipriester (So.).
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Evan Osborne (Sr.), Kirill Telemov (So.).
OUTLOOK: The Bobcats have multiple individuals who could find their way to the state meet at the end of the season. Losing Mendieta won’t be a huge blow as they fill his role with Sickles, who had a very strong summer of competing in the pool. Look for them to build on what they accomplished last season.

THE GIRLS 

LEMON BAY

COACH: Dawn Hall / Julie Goodwin
DISTRICT 2A-10: Cape Coral, Cypress Lake, Dunbar, Golden Gate, Island Coast, Lely, Lemon Bay, Mariner, North Fort Myers, Port Charlotte.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Abby Shea.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Hunter Scott (Sr.), Margo McCoy (Sr.), Ashley Wik (So.), Reagan Vasbinder (Jr.)
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Arianna Cicchella (Jr.), Krista Leo (Fr.), Bailey Grosenbacher (So.).
OUTLOOK: Other than Hunter Scott, the Lemon Bay girls don’t have a whole lot of experience in the pool. The smaller-than-usual team is filled with people who haven’t swam before, but show strong signs of improvement. A top-five finish at districts isn’t out of the realm for Lemon Bay this season. 

PORT CHARLOTTE

COACH: J.R. Whaley
DISTRICT 2A-10:Cape Coral, Cypress Lake, Dunbar, Golden Gate, Island Coast, Lely, Lemon Bay, Mariner, North Fort Myers, Port Charlotte.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Caitlin Moss-Solomon, Maggie Thorbjornsson, Tina Malone, Nia Janson-Dugan, Jaclyn Roche.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Makenzie Miller (Sr.), Amber Hrabak (Sr.), Toni Burke (Sr.), Arianna Janson-Dugan (Jr.), Samantha Negrette (Jr.).
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Lucabella Romero (Fr.).
OUTLOOK: The Pirates are fresh off their first district title in school history, and have no intention of giving up the thrown. However, it’s going to be a little more difficult this year. They lost a ton of talented seniors, who not only did well individually, but on the relays as well. Miller and Hrabak will lead a team that hopes to bring more swimmers to states this year. 

CHARLOTTE

COACH: Jeff Cain
DISTRICT 3A-9: Barron Collier, Charlotte, East Lee County, Estero, Fort Myers, Gulf Coast, Ida Baker, Lehigh, Naples, Palmetto Ridge, Riverdale South Fort Myers.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Becca Parnell, Kallie Hackenberg.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Micah Barnes (So.), Vanessa Deel (Jr.), Emma Roehring (Sr.), Natalie Jen (Jr.).
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Grace Eaton (Fr.), Aliyah Hackenberg (Fr.), Karys Nelson (Fr.).
OUTLOOK: Even though the Tarpons are a young, small team, they’re already practicing at midseason form, and are way ahead of where they were at this point last year. Growth and development will be the big thing this year for Charlotte, as they hope to move up in the ranks among the district and region. 

*Multiple attempts to contact the North Port girls swimming coach for their team preview went unanswered.

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