The swim teams from Nease and Ponte Vedra High Schools left their mark against some of the best swimmers in the Northeast Florida area during the Second Annual Frank Holleman Invitational Sept. 17.
The competition was held at Planet Swim Aquatics in Ponte Vedra and hosted by Nease High. Fifteen schools took part, including nearly every public high school in St. Johns and Clay Counties.
It was a memorable performance put forth by the Sharks’ girls swim team, who won the team competition by 173 points.
Leading the way for the Sharks was the reigning state champion 200 medley relay team of Annie Wohlgemuth, Annabelle MacAdams, Mary Agnes Smith and Penny Zarczynski, who won their event.
“It’s really cool being a senior, especially when you’ve got all these freshmen coming up,” Wohlgemuth said. “It’s fun to help guide the freshmen and really show them what our culture and our team is all about. Just trying to do all the rights things that people can pick up on even when you don’t realize it.”
Wohlgemuth’s big day continued as she also claimed the title in both the 100 fly and 100 backstroke. Not only did the senior win, but she also set a new school record time of 55.48 in the 100 fly.
“I really like staying underwater, and a big part of backstroke is just that, which is what really appeals to me,” Wohlgemuth said. “The same thing goes for fly, because I swim way less strokes if I use my underwater skills to my advantage.”
Ponte Vedra’s boys' swim team placed third overall and had several great swims, such as, a third-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay. The team included John Finnemore, Fabrizzio Lijeron-Herrera, Jason Li and Ryan Yang.
“It’s like a family atmosphere,” Ponte Vedra senior Dominic Ambrosio said. “I didn’t grow up in the Ponte Vedra area, so being able to be a part of the Ponte Vedra swim team was a big help.”
Ambrosio competes in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle. Sprint events are something he has built up to after competing in the 200- and 500-yard distances his first three years of high school.
“It’s a grind and can be really grueling with late nights doing homework and then having to get up in the early morning for practices. But being able to see your teammates gives you a lot of energy” Ambrosio said.
Distance races is a specialty for Nease senior Kate Rieger who competes in the 200 and 500 freestyle events for the Panthers.
“The 500 (freestyle) is my favorite race, and I think it’s because I’m very tall, so it allows me to get my speed up over time and use my length to my advantage,” Rieger said.
According to Rieger, there is nothing like competing in a high school swim meet.
“It’s really fun, and I love it more than club,” Rieger said. “You swim for your team, and you know you are getting good points if you touch the wall before the person next to you. The team comradery is what’s so special for me. It’s just such a cool experience.”
For the Panthers, the day resulted in a pair of runner-up finishes in both the boys’ and girls’ overall standings.
Sophomore Olivia Moore won the girls’ 200 and 500 freestyle, while fellow sophomore Charlotte Driesse won the 200 individual medley.
Senior Matthew Koziol had a busy day and was victorious in the boys’ freestyle at both the 50- and 100-yard distances.
Nease’s veteran leadership continued to come to the forefront as seniors Joseph Wyatt and Ethan Clifford won the 100 fly and 500 freestyle, respectively.
“It’s (butterfly) really taxing on the body, but it just makes me stronger,” Wyatt said.
According to Wyatt, since he has been competing in the Nease program since he was a freshman, he has learned over time how to read his body and can get a sense during certain meets when he feels locked in and there’s a good chance to have a special day.
“My body definitely knows when something’s going good,” Wyatt said. “When I’m in the water, everything just feels like a flash. I’ll dive in, and it feels like the wall is right there.”
A couple of Ponte Vedra school records kept falling as Zarczynski took home first place in the 100 freestyle and posted a time of 51.44, which beat the former school record by more than two seconds.
Other winners included McAdams, who joined in on the fun and won the 100 breaststroke for the Sharks, and Nease junior Arron Storlie who won the boys’ 1-meter diving competition.
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