STUART - Fleming Island High bagged two gold medals at the FHSAA state swimming and diving Class 3A championship meet Friday in Stuart with junior freestyler Maryn McDade successfully defending her …
STUART - Fleming Island High bagged two gold medals at the FHSAA state swimming and diving Class 3A championship meet Friday in Stuart with junior freestyler Maryn McDade successfully defending her 50 free state title and sophomore diver Ava Brinkman overcoming a horrific diving accident to return to the top tier of her sport.
Brinkman, who as a freshman registered one of the top scores statewide in her district championships last year, had a diving accident in the week prior to regions that ended her spectacular climb as one of the top upcoming divers in Florida.
"It was definitely a surreal experience especially with everything that I went through with the accident," said Brinkman, who scored 448.85 points for the gold with runnerup Hadley Futch of Winter Springs keeping chase with a 441.80. "I think it was incredible to see how I grew up within myself and made my way back to win the state championship."
For Andrea Brinkman, Ava's mom, the anxiety of watching the year of recovery, the return to national level diving competition and the training to return to the state high school diving ranks was somewhat relieved by daughter Ava's precision through the three rounds of state meet competition.
"I guess the year past really fast, from the hospital to not going to state to working hard to return and then, all of sudden, we are at state," said Andrea Brinkman. "It all hit me when she did the last dive and I knew there were three other girls that could have caught her but I knew they were not able to score enough with their dives to catch her. I knew she had won."
Ava Brinkman was unaware of her position on the leaderboard until the very end when mom Andrea motioned to look at the scoreboard behind her.
"Throughout all of my competitions, I hardly ever look at the scoreboard except to see my scores," said Ava Brinkman, who was also district and region champion. "After my last dive, I looked to see who was in position to possibly catch me."
Brinkman's clutch dive that separated her from her two chasers; Hutch and St. Thomas Aquinas' Kaitlyn Raby (third at 438.60) was her final dive.
"I felt like they were both ahead of me before that last dive and I scored an 8 and an 8.5 on my back one and a half half," said Brinkman. "When I hit that one, I felt good that they were not going to catch me."
McDade, who quietly last year blitzed the pool to her first state title in her specialty; the 50 freestyle, warded off all challengers; mainly a pesky duo from Ponte Vedra High School, to complete the mission a second time only this time with a bit more tension involved.
In her prelims, McDade had to fend off Ponte Vedra sophomore sensation Penelope Zarczynski, a district and region rival in the prior two weeks. McDade smoothly ripped her fastest 50 of the season with a 23.39 with Zarczynski just off at 23.42 and Seminole's Mahya Golubovic third at 23.47 in one of the tightest races up to that point.
In the final, the 1-2-3 stayed the same with McDade hitting the turbo to knock her time down to 23.07 to win with Zarczynski runnerup at 223.36 and Golubovic third at 23.49 as the trio delivered one of the tighest races in recent history.
Zarczynski turned the tables on McDade in the 100 free with a gold with McDade fourth. McDade was tied for second last year in the 100 free.
In other races, Fleming Island junior Dylan Ducut finished 16th in the Boys 50 free in 22.33. Ducut was disqualified in the 100 butterfly as well.
In the 500 free, Fleming Island freshman Elizabeth Loehr finished 18th with a 5:18.34 effort. The winner's time was 4:59.30.
McDade teamed with Kelsey Bright, Katelyn Moore and Rielly Hurley in the 200 free relay that finished 16th and the 400 free relay that finished 13th.
In the 100 backstroke, Fleming Island's David Goodwin finished 16th in 56.73 with the winner at 48.47.
Fleming Island finished 13th in women's team scores with Ponte Vedra winning the top spot.
For the boys, Nease won the state title with Fleming Island at 43rd.
Orange Park's Sebastian Lopez finished 12th in the 100 free with a 48.46. The winner was at 45.17.
Lopez also finished 22nd in the 100 breaststroke.
Lopez later teamed with Gavin Dobson, Aston Danninger and Kaden Danninger to get 11th in the 200 free relay in 1:31.33. The winner was 1:25.72.
For Oakleaf, sophomore Peyton Loving finished 12th inthe 100 breast stroke at 1:08.98 with a prelim split of 1;07.77. The winner was at 1:01.94.
Loving also finished 19th in the 50 free at 25.25.
Loving teamed with Olivia Votava, Delicia Coleman and Jazzmine Moore to get 14th in the 200 medley relay and 13th in the 200 free relay.