DESTIN – In terms of capturing the frenetic and ultra-competitive atmosphere of Monday’s County High School Championships at the Destin YMCA, a venue pitting Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, Choctaw and Rocky Bayou against each other, it was the consummate scene.
With a mixture of chants, cheers, dances and what sounded like tribal calls filling the area around the starting blocks, the stage was set for the boy’s 400-yard freestyle relay. And like the rest of the 22-event meet, the relay didn’t disappoint.
Leading Niceville by just a point headed into the night’s final event, the Fort Walton Beach team of Levi Wilke, Michael Holland, Jesse Arrington and Cody Haeusler outpaced the Eagles’ quartet of Cody McWilliams, Teddy Vaughen, Justin Broaderick and Chaz Brechler by 1.41 seconds – 3:31.58 to 3:32.99 – to give the Vikings a 184-181 win en route to their eight consecutive county win.
“It’s a great group of kids. It definitely helps to bring momentum headed into districts,” said FWB coach Tom Ballasch, whose team will head to the University of West Florida on Oct. 25 for district action.
As for runner-up Niceville, whose 181 points were well ahead of Choctaw’s 105 and Rocky Bayou’s 28, Eagles coach Kathy Ritaccowas proud of her guys for taking the meet down to the wire.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of the boys,” she said. “They have to be pretty amazed that they were within three points at the end.”
There would be no photo finish, though, on the girls’ side. It was all Eagles.
Garnering seven first-place finishes in the 11 events, the Eagles amassed 204 points to Choctaw’s 139, FWB’s 112 and Rocky Bayou’s 28 on their way to a third consecutive county title.
“We did really well in the breaststroke and backstroke,” Ritacco said. “Actually the girls nearly won every event so it that regard I was very pleased.”
The top finishes included three relay wins – Kalanne Krause, Milbrey Parke, Alex Messmore and Caitlin Myers in 1:58.92 in the 200-yard medley and 3:54.38 in the 400-yard freestyle, and Rachel Gold, Hannah Moore, Phoebe Anders and Jessica Tibaduiza in 1:52.99 in the 200-yard freestyle – and a slew of individual efforts.
Messmore beat runner-up and teammate Gold to win the 200-yard freestyle in 2:08.99; Krause outpaced Suzi Sober of Rocky Bayou in 25.86 in the 50-yard freestyle; Myers beat Gold in the 100-yard freestyle in 56.68; and Parke beat teammate Anders in 1:10.69 in the 100 breaststroke.
Accounting for the other wins were Amelia and Emma Strom from Choctaw. Amelia’s time of 2:18.90 in the 200-yard IM outpaced Parke and her 1:02.89 beat Myers by .01 in the 100 butterfly. Emma, meanwhile, beat Krause to win the 500-yard freestyle in 5:22.10 and her 100-yard backstroke time of 1:01.72 outpaced Anders.
Back to the boys’ side, Fort Walton Beach won six of the 11 events with four individual top showings – Wilke accounting for two -- and two relay triumphs.
Wilke won the 200-yard IM in 2:06.33 and 500-yard freestyle in 4:59.46; Nicholas Miller beat Niceville’s Broaderick in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.68; and Holland outpaced teammate Benson Kuira in the 100 butterfly in 57.78. Accenting the final event win, Haeusler, Holland, Arrington and Miller won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:36.63.
Niceville’s three wins came from Chaz Brechler’s 1:49.56 in the 200-yard freestyle, Austin Paul’s 1:01.30 in the 100-yard backstroke and Mark Markwardt’s 1:04.18 in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Rounding out the top efforts, Choctaw’s Justin Lewis won the 100-yard freestyle in 50.81 over Haeusler and Will Irwin, Tyler Petrbok, Brian Cruickshank and Alexander Petrbok won the 200-yard medley relay in 1:45.06.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Seth Stringer at 850-315-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SethSnwfdn.