Although the boys’ and girls’ one-meter diving was just two of the 26 events in the 2022 Orange Belt Conference Swimming Championships, those two events played a huge role in the Harmony Longhorns winning both teams titles at Markinson Aquatic Center.  

The Harmony girls won for the ninth time in 11 years and claimed their 14th title over.  Their team total of 155 bested Celebration.  Gateway (113) was third; followed by St. Cloud (64), Tohopekaliga (41) and Osceola (32).

The Longhorn boys (153.50) narrowly ended Celebration’s (146.50) quest for a fourth straight title.  St. Cloud (63) was third with Gateway (59), Osceola (55) and Tohopekaliga (6) rounding out the field.

The 1-meter diving event, which was held on Wednesday night before Thursday’s swimming events, gave Harmony big leads heading into the swimming competition.  On the girl’s side, Meredith Wagner (284.9 points) led a first, second, fourth and fifth place finish for the Lady Longhorns.   That gave the Harmony team a 25-3 lead over Celebration after one event.

In the boys’ diving, Nick Vishunanand won the event with 234.15 points to lead a Harmony a 1-2-3 finish in the event and stake the Longhorns 22-0 advantage over Celebration and the rest of the field heading into the swimming events.

“It just one of 15 events on both sides, but it certainly gave us a boost heading into the main competition,” Harmony dive coach Stephanie Clark said.  “But the main this is we are all a team.  Our swimmers came out to the complex last night to support our divers and the divers were here today to cheer on the swimmers during their events.”

For the Longhorns, Sarina Steele and Eli Christ both played big parts in the victory.  Steele was victorious in the 50 free (25.46)  and 100 free (56.35) and also swam a leg on the winning 200 medley relay team.  She also swam anchor on the second place 200 free relay to have a hand in 50 of Harmony’s winning 155 points.

Although Eli Christ put on a show in winning the 200 free (2:02.14), 100 free (55.09) and swam a leg on the winning 400 free relay (3:45.64) with Mason Shafer, Evan Christ and Hunter Boro.  Christ’s win in the 100-free highlighted a dominating event for the Longhorns who swept the top four places and garnered 27 of a possible 37 points.

The Longhorn boys were also victorious in the 200 IM Relay with Hunter Boro, Evan Christ, Aaron Stephenson, and Carter Nicholson  (1:54.27) and the 100 breast with Stephenson (1:07.42).  

Overall, Longhorn athletes found themselves on the podium (top three) in eight of 13 of the girls’ events and nine of 13 of the boys.

Other gold medalists in the girls’ competition were St. Cloud’s Theresa Fortuno in the 200 free (2:16.59) and 500 free (5:53.70), Gateway’s Maryam Elfakir in the 200 IM (2:28.63), and Osceola’s Abigail Maniace in the 100 fly (1:04.24).

OBC champions on the boys side included Osceola’s Luis Garale in the 200 IM (2:23.77); St. Cloud’s Silas Corchado in the 500 free (5:56.50), and Celebration’s 200 free relay team of Igor Lunegov, Noah Fermin, Ethan Cruz and Adrian DaSilva (1:46.18).   Osceola’s Rosser Jurgens was a double gold medalist taking both the 100 fly (59.56) and 100 breast (1:01.99).

Harmony coach Lee Stephenson who was pushed in the pool by his victorious swimmers was pleased to win both titles.    “The athletes on both teams came together and did what needed to be done,” Stephenson said.  “We had a little adversity in the middle of the meet and we just came together and did what we had to do.  Our next goal is just getting ready for districts, it will be difficult and we haven’t won a district championship in a while but this team will give it’s all and compete.”

Although the defending champion Storm boys graduated a lot of talent last year, including state champion Felipe Costa, Celebration coach Kelly Walton said she was proud of both of her team’s runner-up finishes.  “We had a lot of kids come out and swim their season or personal bests today.  I’m so proud of how far this team has come this year.  Hurricane Ian disrupted our schedule a little as far preparation for this meet, but we will continue to work hard and get ready for districts.”