LECANTO — Swimming at the friendly confines of the Citrus Memorial Health Foundation YMCA, Crystal River made sure to capitalize on home-pool advantage.
Hosting the District 2A-4 Championship meet on Saturday, the Pirates collected some heavy hardware, with the boys capturing their first district championship since 2014 and the girls placing runner-up.
"It was outstanding," Crystal River coach Chuck Gatton said. "They (the boys) were fired up and worked hard. What a great day. Started with the diving on Thursday, picked up points there with Ryan (Zell) and then we brought it home here today.
"Everybody stepped up, lowered their times and picked up places. So we picked up points, and the relays just owned it. That was huge."
The boys scored 386 to edge Nature Coast at 365.5. Cypress Creek followed at 262 and Citrus was fourth with a 261.5.
Zell did finish third in the 1-meter diving held Thursday at Bicentennial Park, scoring 295.95. Citrus’ Riley Schaffer, seeking a second straight trip to states, repeated as district champ with a 431.10.
Automatic regional berths were awarded to the top two finishers in each individual race or competition and all first-place relays. At-large berths will be announced by the FHSAA upon completion of all district meets in the region.
The Region 2A-2 Championship meet will take place next Saturday at The Long Center in Clearwater.
No surprise that junior Marshall Wilson was a first-placer finisher in four separate events. The junior, last year’s Chronicle Boys Swimmer of the Year, advanced to states in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles, winning district titles in both along the way.
So far he’s on the same path, taking this year’s 50 free with a 21.84 and the 100 free in 49.00. He was also anchor on the winning 200-free and 400-free relays, teaming with Ryley Price, Landon Vincent and Zell in both. They swam a 1:39.04 in the 200 and 3:42.10 in the 400.
"I felt really good," Wilson said. "We got new coaching, so we’re learning a bunch of new techniques and new drills to do almost every day. The training style is a little different, but it’s amazing all around.
"I’ve still got two more weeks before states but I’m doing pretty good right now. I’ll have a couple things to tweak on within the next week, but after that I think I’ll be ready for states."
Price, a senior, was first in the 100 backstroke (1:01.10) and second to Wilson in the 100 free (50.91). That was his third straight district crown in the 100 back.
"It was a team effort," Gatton said "Of course we had Marshall and Ryley, they each won their events, did what they needed to do. But we had guys getting third and fourth places when they weren’t seeded there, and that was the big thing."
The girls tallied 304 points, well behind Cypress Creek with 395 but ahead of Nature Coast (279) and Citrus (275).
"We definitely wanted to come and win and we were down personnel, but the ones that were here, the ladies really stepped it up," Gatton said. "A lot of improvements by them, that was a total team effort. Getting second, that’s just like winning as far as I’m concerned.
"We had to put some people in some different events that they weren’t accustomed to and they swam well. Some of them hadn’t done them in years and really lowered their times, and that’s what they needed to do. That was the whole day, from first event all the way through the end."
Senior Hannah Laycock won the 50 free (26.06) along with the 100 back (1:06.89), the event that she reached states in last year. Junior Genevieve Kennedy came in first in the 100 butterfly (1:04.76) and repeated as district champ in the 500 free (5:35.54).
"We’ve all been working really hard and I pushed myself today, and I swam some pretty good times and I’m proud of it," Kennedy said. "Last year with Lecanto it was a little bit harder, but this year Crystal River really stepped up. We were doing really good. It feels good to be in the first-place position.
"We lost a few people and that really hurt us. But overall we have a good, positive atmosphere. Now we’re kicking it and we’re going into regionals really happy and in a good spot."
Citrus had a pair of multiple district champions, including freshman Drew Jenkins. He touched the wall first in the 200 IM (2:16.06) and 100 breaststroke (1:09.11), and was part of the top 200-medley relay, teaming with Fred Merkle, Vann Crawley and Ethan Lopez for a 1:58.27.
"It’s a great accomplishment," Jenkins said. "I set out a goal to do great at this championship.
"I feel pretty good where I am right now. My goal this year is to make states. That’s where I’d love to be this year."
For the girls, junior Taylor Backer took first in the 200 IM (2:41.46) and the 100 free (1:01.74).
"Overall I think they did very well. I was very impressed with most of their end results," Citrus coach Dawn Crawley said of the team. "We had a lot of PRs (personal records). They bettered a lot of their times, so I was impressed by that."
"I think overall they did very well. Some of them swam their personal bests," Citrus coach Jamie Fehrenbach said. "With a new team and coaches, I’m very impressed."