By Matt Wiley & Gary Nager

Some serious waves have been made in the pool by both New Tampa high schools this season, including some good results by both Freedom and Paul R. Wharton high schools at the recent State Swimming & Diving Championships.

The top finishes by either New Tampa high school at the State meet (held in Orlando Nov. 9) were by Wharton’s Dee Sopapong, who was an impressive 3rd in the girls’ 200 individual medley and 4th in the 100-yard breastroke, to give the Wharton girls 31 points and a 22nd place team finish.

The only scoring from Freedom at States was provided by the boys 200-yard freestyle relay team of Marc Berson, Aron Corneau, Brennan Noll and Max Wei, which finished 15th and scored Freedom’s only 4 points at the State meet.

Prior to States, however, the Freedom girls swimming team brought home the school’s first-ever team title in swimming, at the Western Conference Championship meet held October 10 at the Temple Terrace Rec Center.

“It’s a huge meet,” said Alex Richardson, Freedom’s boys and girls swimming coach, of the Conference Championships.

Freedom’s girls walked away with the Western Conference trophy with a total of 383 points, beating out Wharton, which finished second (351). On the boys side, Wharton finished 3rd in the Conference (343 points) and Freedom was 4th (329).

Freedom’s top girl swimmers at the Conference meet were Morgan Harkness, who was 2nd in the 500 free (5:46.92) and 3rd in the 200 IM (2:33.65), and also teamed with Alexis Weingberg, Caitlin Slater and Mary Cate Espinosa to win the 400-yard freestyle relay (4:15.28). Harkness also anchored Freedom’s third place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay, with Caitlyn Slater, Mary Cate Espinosa and Moira Espinosa. Slater also finished 3rd in the individual 100 free (1:01.71) and Mary Cate Espinosa was 2nd in the 50 free (28.51).

Richardson says that Harkness was the girls’ most valuable swimmer this season, after shattering a nine-year-old school record earlier in the season for the 500-yard free. He adds that, overall, it’s been a pretty successful season, as the girls team finished 8-1.

“I’ve only been the coach (at Freedom) for two years now, but it’s probably been the best season in five or six years here,” he says. “And, we won a championship.”

“There’s been a lot of interest in the swim team this year,” says Richardson. “We’re going to continue to pick up new swimmers and train the ones we have. There are only better things in store for next year.”

The top Freedom boy swimmers at the Conference meet were Marc Berson (1st in the 200 free, 1:52.26; and 2nd in the 100 fly, 55.79); Max Wei (1st in the 100 free, 52.16); Aron Comeau (2nd in 50 free (23.95); and Jordan Schollenberger (2nd in the 100 breast, 1:06.64, 3rd in the 200 IM, 2:12.82). The four also combined to win the 400 free relay for the ‘Cats (3:33.07).

Sopapong was Wharton’s top girls swimmer at the Conference meet as well, winning both the 200 free (1:59.84) and the 100 breast (1:09.91). Allyson Bell also had a big meet, winning the 50 free (27.29) and finishing 2nd in the 100 free (1:01.23). The other top finish for the Wildcats girls was Katie Scott’s 2nd in the 200 IM (2:24.35).

Wharton’s top boy swimmer at the Conference meet was Ryan Heckel, who won the 50 free (23.81), finished 3rd in the 100 free (53.20) and was part of Wharton’s 1st place 400 free relay team. Also on that winning relay was Jeffrey Stump, who also was 3rd in the 50 free (24.13), and 4th in the 100 free (53:25). Brennan Noll finished 3rd in the 500 free (5:29.74).

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