Senior T.C. Smith sought a memorable final act.
Sophomore Ryley Ober sought that first gold.
The two Bayshore High School standouts won gold medals Saturday at the Class 2A state swim meet at Sailfish Splashpark Aquatic Center in Stuart. Ober won two events and Smith one.
Ober stormed to victories in the girls 200- and 500-yard freestyle. In the shorter distance, she entered Saturday’s competition with a seed time that was 2 seconds faster than anyone else in the field. And she kept that advantage.
“I really focus on going for best times, so even though I knew I was ahead of the field coming in I was still motivating myself to improve my times,” Ober said. “It definitely gave me a level of confidence coming in knowing that I had a good room for error. But I knew all those other girls would still be out for a race.”
Smith won the 200 but was edged out in the 500, the event he was the defending champion.
“This (a first and second) is the best I ve ever done in both events combined,” Smith said. “Last year I was first and seventh, so this is a step up.”
In the girls 200 final, Ober turned in a 1:48.98, shaving a second off her time in the morning preliminaries (1:49.57). Hunter Scott of Lemon Bay finished second in 1:51.41. Bayshore junior Alexandra Graham finished fourth in 1:56.89, matching her 1:56.84 time in the preliminaries.
“It was a shocker to get fourth,” Graham said. “In the 200, my expectations was just to squeeze by and make the A final, and I didn’t even think I would make A finals in the 500 and squeezed in. Being up there in both events, it was like ‘I am with the big dogs now, this is getting real.’ I feel like I could have gone faster in the finals, but I am not disappointed.”
Ober’s time in the final was a 2-second improvement over last year, when she finished second in the event with 1:50.93 time. Ober finished third in the 100 backstroke a year ago, but didn’t swim the event this postseason.
“Ryley knew there was pressure going in being the first seed in both events,” Bayshore swim head coach Aaron Bokelmann said. “She was really comfortable today; I think it hit her tonight when she realized, ‘hey, I am going to be swimming for a state title.’ We didn’t have any huge strategy because if she maintained her times, she would be there.”
Unlike in the morning preliminaries, Ober was pushed all the way to the finish in the 500 freestyle final. Ober’s winning time of 4:52.20 was only 1.49 seconds ahead of Marcella Ruppert-Gomez, a junior from Gulliver Prep. In the preliminary, Ober’s 4:52.92 effort was more than four seconds better than the nearest foe.
Graham also joined Ober in the final of the 500 free. She finished seventh, matching her placement in the morning session. Her time in the final was 5:13.60; she was timed in 5:11.00 in the morning.
Smith, the reigning champion in the boys 500 freestyle, won the 200 freestyle and nearly matched Ober’s double-gold effort. He finished second in the 500, turning in a time of 4:25.33. He was edged by Miguel Cancel, a junior from Gulliver Prep, who touched in 4:24.99 — more than 12 seconds better than his time in the preliminaries. Smith won the boys 500 last year in 4:23.91, edging Cancel.
“After last year when we went head-to-head in a great race, coming back I am sure we both had our eyes on each other. The big thing was that time was nowhere near where we wanted. We were both slower than last year.”
Smith had left the rest of the 500 field behind in the morning preliminary, finishing in 4:27.90. No one else in the field bettered 4:33.00.
Andrew Kalaman qualified for the final as well, finishing sixth in both the morning and evening sessions. His finals time of 4:42.60 was off his preliminary time of 4:38.63. However, that preliminary time was a personal best and a full seven seconds off his previous best, set at regionals.
“It blew away my expectations,” Kalaman. “Even warming up for finals, I couldn’t believe I made the A final. It was like, wow, I am actually going to finish in the top eight.”
Smith started his day with a 1:40.52 effort in the boys 200 freestyle, 3.1 seconds faster than his time a week ago in the regional meet. The effort was 1.3 seconds faster than the next fastest qualifier, Adam Tapia. The Tarpon Springs senior had handed Smith the first loss in a district or regional meet of his career last week. Tapia finished fourth in the evening final.
Smith posted a 1:39.46 in the final, holding off Ethan Long of Lakewood, who finished in 1:40.44. Tarpon Springs senior Adam Tapia finished third in 1:41.67.
“My 200 is a good gauge for me as to what I can do in the 500,” said Smith, who finished his high school career with two golds, two silvers and a bronze. “I went 2 seconds faster in the 200 than what I came into today, so I thought it would lead to a good 500. I have no explanation for why that was slower.”
As a team, bayshore finished 12th in both the boys and girls competition. Despite having just two scorers in both competitions, the Bruins were in the top 10 until the final relay event.
“We came close to meeting expectations,” Bokelmann said. “Of course, T.C. wanted two first-place finishes. But the guy that beat him he beat last year, so we knew that would be a close. And all of the others did much better than we were expecting, and that is great.”