GAINESVILLE – “They are back” Fleming Island High swim coach Jordan Bright had an ear-to-ear smile on his face early in the region 1-4A swimming championships and the meet was only half …
GAINESVILLE – “They are back” Fleming Island High swim coach Jordan Bright had an ear-to-ear smile on his face early in the region 1-4A swimming championships and the meet was only half over.
“We haven’t had a girls team go to state in the 200 free relay in quite a while and our boys team going for a three-peat is a big deal,” said Bright. “Andrew Heinton had an outstanding meet with his win in the 100 and his anchor in the 400 free relay that also won.”
Bright’s glee came from three dominating performances in the first half of the championship session with senior Jack Neeley blowing up the 50 free, sophomore Andrew Heinton knifing to victory in the 100 free and the boys 200 free relay; the two-time state champions, offering up a plate of crow to rival Seminole High with a commanding win in that event.
In team points, the Fleming Island boys, second in Class 4A last year, took fourth with 229 points in the region championship behind Oviedo’s 319, Buchholz’ 267 and Seminole’s 260.5. Buchholz was womens team champs with 444.5 points with Fleming Island 10th with 69.5 points.
In the 50, with Neeley in lane two and Heinton in lane eight, both synched up for a 1-2 finish with Neeley plowing in at 21.67 and Heinton on his tail at 21.69. In 2016, Neeley finished second at the Class 4A championships in 21.20 with Heinton fourth in 21.64.
In the 100 free, Neeley started in heat two of three and finished second in the heat with a 49.22 time behind the winning time of 48.83 from Deland’s Elijah Wheeler.
For the state meet rankings, Neeley is fourth with Heinton fifth behind a 20.89 region best from Kyle DiMatteo of Park Vista.
“We did a fast workout on Monday and now we’ll start to back off and work on starts, turns and relay stuff,” said Bright. “There is not much to do to get faster at this point. We just have to get down there and swim smart.”
Heinton was again in lane eight of the third heat where he blasted the field with a 47.13 split. Runner up was timed in at 47.36 with three Seminole High swimmers under 49 seconds behind Heinton as Neeley awaits region tallies to see if he earned a state slot for the 100 free. Heinton was seventh at last year’s state meet in 47.87.
Heinton earned a number three rank behind DiMatteo, last year’s runnerup at 46.08, as the top seed with a 45.21 region time. Neeley did not make the top 24 with 48.90 the final qualifying time.
In the 200 relay, with newcomer Jacob Thompson, a Colorado transfer with state meet experience from the west, leading off and setting the team on the path to dominate, Fleming Island took control and never looked back with Neeley, Heinton and Nick Hackett finishing off the field. Fleming Island’s winning split of 1:26.71 beat rival Seminole by more than a second with their 1:27.50 the runnerup time. Fleming Island won the 200 free relay at last year’s state meet at 1:24.53 over defending team champions Riverview High. Riverview swam a 1:28.10 at the region meet for third. The bonus for the day was a win in the 400 free relay with the same foursome bumping out Buchholz with a 3:09.85 split to Buchholz’ 3:10.05. The relay lineup was the same, but Hackett was leadoff leg and Heinton was anchor.
“Andrew swam another 47-point 100 to bring it home,” said Bright.
Fleming Island was second in last year’s 400 free relay to Riverview at last year’s state meet. Riverview was third at regions with a 3:12.15. Seminole was eighth.
Hackett, the defending 4A champion in the 200 free and 100 butterfly, took second in both events with a 1:42.22 finish in the 200 just behind winner Jacob Hill of Buchholz who hit in at 1:40.63. Hackett is ranked fifth in Class 4A in the 200 free with Hill’s time the top time from regions.
In the 100 butterfly, Hackett was second to Mason Wilby of Buchholz with a 50.45 split to Wilby’s winning 48.73, an All-American-A time. Hackett beat Wilby at the state meet last year with a 48.88 split.
“Mason has been working really hard since last year’s state meet and Nick beating him, but don’t ever count out Nick,” said Bright. “He always comes around at the big meets.”
Also at regions, Thompson finished with a fast final 50 to take third in 51.82 in the 100 butterfly. Wilby is top-ranked for the state meet with Hackett third behind St. Thomas Aquinas’ senior Carlos Vasquez-Moreno, who hit 50.32. Thompson is at eight.
“Jacob came in from Colorado and we knew he was fast, but we didn’t know how fast,”said Bright. “He did a 50 fly with Hackett and stayed with him to about 35 meters. That was a pretty good first day and he has worked very hard to be a part of this team.”
Fleming Island’s girls 200 free relay; Sarah and Emma Grimm, Corrina Laird and Alicia Sullivan, is ranked 10th for Class 4A with a 1:40.28. Buchholz tops the list at 1:33.21.