STUART – The Fleming Island High boys 4 x 50 free relay squad; Jacob Thompson, Jack Neeley, Andrew Heinton and Nick Hackett, scorched the field at the Class 4A swimming championships held Fri., …
STUART – The Fleming Island High boys 4 x 50 free relay squad; Jacob Thompson, Jack Neeley, Andrew Heinton and Nick Hackett, scorched the field at the Class 4A swimming championships held Fri., Nov. 10 in Stuart to bring home a third consecutive gold medal for the event.
“The look on the faces of the Seminole High team was priceless,” said Fleming Island High coach Jordan Bright, after Seminole entered the meet as a very confident threat to the streak. Seminole finished second.
Riverview won the mens team title with 278.5 points with Lake Brantley second at 198 and Fleming Island third at 162, just ahead of Buchholz’ 150 points. Buchholz won the womens title with 360.5 points.
In the individual events, Neeley, a senior, came home with his second silver medal in the 50 free while Hackett, the defending 200 free and 100 butterfly champion, did not fare as well in 2017 with a third in the 200 free and a second in the 100 butterfly.
Heinton, the lone sophomore on the four-man sprint team, also competed in the 100 free with a sixth place 46.60 split.
“The three straight 200 free relay thing was a bullseye that has been there all season,” said Fleming Island coach Jordan Bright, who loses three of the four swimmers on the 2017 version as only Heinton remains. “The relief after the final was palpable.”
In the 200 free relay final, with Thompson the leadoff leg, it was Bright’s three seniors that closed the slight gap that Thompson gave to rival Seminole High.
“There was some talk about the order of the relay, but I insisted on Thompson first and we would fight through with the three seniors,” said Bright.
Thompson opened with a 21.92 split; the fourth fastest of the field with Riverview opening at 21.39 and Seminole at 21.94.
In the second leg, with Neeley,, the 50 free runnerup on deck, Fleming Island pulled slightly ahead of Seminole with his 21.07 split as the second fastest split of the leg with Lake Brantley clocking a 21.09, but Seminole going 21.55 and Riverview going 21.65. Fleming Island totaled 64.26 for three legs with Seminole at 64.35 after a 20.86 split and Riverview at 64.43.
In the anchor leg, where Hackett lurked after being unsuccesful in defending his two titles, Fleming Island got the winning edge with Hackett blasting the pool for a 20.56 split, the fastest of the event and enough to push the Golden Eagles to a 1:24.82 All-American time and the gold medal. Seminole, with a 21.10 anchor leg, took second at 1:25.45 with Riverview third at 1:26.19.
“Up to that point, we were having a rough night with no golds, but the 200 free relay win was awesome to bring home,” said Bright. “I don’t know if it’s ever been done at the Class 4A meet.”
In the final event of the night, the 400 free relay, Riverview won convincingly with a 3:05.23 time with Lake Brantley edging out Fleming Island for second, 3:07.11-3:07.28. The top five times all achieved All-American nomination. The splits for Fleming Island were 45.77 for Hackett, 48.52 for Thompson, 47.38 for Neeley and 46.10 for Heinton.
“With three of the four graduating, we will have to go back to basics and rebuild,” said Bright. “Next year will be a huge step up for three young swimmers to take the place of those guys.”
In the 200 free, Hackett finished third behind Buchholz junior Julian Hill, who defeated Hackett at districts and regions then at state with a 1:37.68 time. Hackett was in at 1:39.61. Brendan Firlie of Riverview was second in 1:38.57.
In the 100 butterfly, Buchholz senior Mason Wilby, who was second to Hackett in 2016, reversed the order with a 48.12 gold medal split with Hackett in at 48.89 in second.
“It was a great race with Wilby having to dig down deep to hold off Nick’s finish,” said Bright. “Nick said he felt he had great power, but the speed wasn’t there.”
Thompson also swam the 100 butterfly final and finished seventh in 51.40.
In the 50 free final, Neeley, the region 1-4A champion, finished second for a second year with winner Kyle DiMatteo of Park Vista, the 200 free 2016 champion, topping the field with a 20.42 split. Neeley was in at 21.10 just ahead of Olympia’s Luke Carey at 21.31.
“Jack flew from wall to wall,” said Bright. “The winner just had a little more.”
In the 100 free, Heinton, the 100 free region 1-4A champion, who had inched up to a sub-47 split with his winning 47.13 split, went to 46.60 for sixth place, but could not match DiMatteo’s winning time of 44.45. Heinton clocked a 47.00 in the preliminaries.
Fleming Island had a girls 200 free relay that finished 15th in 1:41.11; Sarah Grimm, Emma Grimms, Alicia Sullivan and Corrina Laird. Buchholz won the gold in 1:31.66.
In Class 3A, Oakleaf sophomore Kelsie Craig finished 23rd in the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.42.