The sight was startling for Bayshore High’s T.C. Smith.
Swim coach Aaron Bokelmann gave him red ribbons, instead of blue.
“I was like, ‘No blues?’ This has been awhile,” Smith said.
The Bruins senior was beaten at last week’s Class 2A-Region 3 swim meet for the first time at the district or region level in his high school career in the 500 freestyle.
A defending state champion, Smith isn’t worried.
In 2015, he swam the regional meet eight seconds slower than he did last weekend.
Tampa Jesuit sophomore Brendan Driscoll nipped Smith by 0.25 seconds.
“I swam in my team Speedo and I’m just now starting to rest for this weekend,” said Smith following his college signing ceremony with Louisville on Wednesday.
What is this weekend is Smith’s chance to defend his 2A crown in the 500 freestyle, while competing in the 200 freestyle at the 2A state meet in Stuart on Saturday. He finished runner-up in the 200 freestyle at regionals, which is a new event for him this year.
In 2015, Smith took seventh in the 100 backstroke.
Rising into a dominant swimmer began in Smith’s home state of Ohio.
And at an early age, Smith was glued to distance swimming. When he was 7, he ended each swim practice with the 200 butterfly by choice and then swam 5K open water just a year later.
“I always had a knack for it,” Smith said.
At the age of 10, Smith’s family relocated to Bradenton and he became a fixture with the Sarasota Tsunami swim team.
Smith’s year-round dedication is paramount to his success in meets, and he trains in the mornings at Sarasota’s Arlington Park and in the afternoons at Bradenton’s G.T. Bray park.
“Hockey was my first sport and I failed hard, and my brother was a swimmer so I went the swimming route and it worked out,” Smith said.
Now he’ll aim to win two medals at the 2A state meet this weekend, while looking to repeat as the 500 freestyle champ.
There’s some extra motivation, too, after getting knocked off the mountain top last weekend against Driscoll.
“I think deep-down it kind of bothered him, but overall I think he’s kind of glad that the pressure’s not on him now,” Bokelmann said. “Because he has had that pressure for all four years of always being at the top, always being the one that everyone focuses on.”
Smith isn’t the only Bayshore swimmer competing this weekend.
Ryley Ober has a good chance of securing a state title in the girls 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle.
She’s seeded first in both events.
Also competing are Alexandra Graham (girls 200 freestyle, girls 500 freestyle) and Andrew Kalaman (boys 500 freestyle).
The Class 1A state meet is scheduled the day before on Friday.
Competing from the area are Bradenton Christian’s Anna Freed (girls 200 individual medley, girls 100 backstroke), Connor Kesten (boys 200 individual medley, boys 100 backstroke); Cardinal Mooney’s Jillian Santiago (girls 200 freestyle, girls 100 freestyle), Matthew Nutter (boys 200 freestyle, boys 100 freestyle); Out-of-Door Academy’s Sarsen Whatmore (boys 200 freestyle, boys 500 freestyle), Zach Szmania (boys 200 individual medley, boys 100 breaststroke), Martin Baffico (boys 100 butterfly, boys 100 backstroke) and Saint Stephen’s Marshall Webster (boys 200 freestyle, boys 500 freestyle).
Where: Sailfish Splashpark Aquatic Athletics Center, Stuart
When: Class 1A, Friday; Class 2A, Saturday, finals start at 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $9 per session, $5 for parking and $25 for a deck pass