A rare state championship performance by an Osceola County swimmer, high finishes in both cross country and golf, and an impending change at the top of the football program at Tohopekaliga highlights an incredibly busy week in county high school sports.
COSTA-CELEBRATION SHINE AT STATE SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Celebration’s Felipe Costa became just the third Osceola athlete to win a state championship in swimming and diving when he won the 100-back in 49.04 – winning by more than 7/10 of a second over the runner-up.
Costa joins Bryan Gillooly and PJ Frueler as the only individual swimming and diving champions from Osceola County. Gillooly, a former two-time NCAA Champion at Miami and the current diving coach at the University of Florida, won four consecutive FHSAA one-meter dive titles at Gateway High from 1990-93; while Frueler, who swam at Columbia University, won the 500-free at the state meet for Osceola High back in 1995.
It was a great meet for Celebration, as Costa, Roman Sukhorukov, Brandon Cunningham and Greg Kamensky also teamed up to earn all-state honors by finishing 8th in the 200-medley relay and 6th in the 200-free relay. The Storm finished with the highest score in team history, taking 10th place overall with 90 points.
Osceola High also had an all-state performer in Anthony Ambrosi, who finished tied for 6th overall in the 50-free in a time of 21.09. Harmony sisters Amelia (Sr.) and Meredith (Jr.) Wagner finished 17th and 21st respectively in the diving competition.
BEAULIEU EARNED ALL-STATE HONORS IN GOLF
St. Cloud senior Morgan Beaulieu capped off her sensation high school career at the FHSAA Class 3A Championships by finishing fourth and shooting a 73-75-148 over the tough 5575-yard, Las Colinas Course at the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-In-The-Hills, Fla. The score was 13 back of the winner, Lake Mary’s Izzy Pellot – who shot a stellar eight-under-par 135 over the two-day event.
Forest High School’s Haley Davis was the only other golfer to break par for the tournament, as she went 69-72 for a three-under 141. Lake Mary’s Ryleigh Knaub was solo third with even-par 144. Beaulieu tied for fourth with Niceville’s Gracie Grant.
“With the wind and other factors, there were some difficult conditions in day two,” St. Cloud head coach Jim Endicott said. “With a few exceptions, almost everyone in the field posted higher scores on day two. To finish fourth out of 96 players is a tremendous accomplishment and an end to a terrific high school career,” Endicott says. “Morgan leaves us as a four-time Orange Belt Conference Champion, a three-time State qualifier and not a top-five All-State performer.”
The Lady Bulldogs also qualified for the championship as a team, finishing in 12th place (16 teams qualified) with a team score of 341-354-695. Lake Mary (291-298-589) easily won the tournament by 28 shots over its closest competitor Niceville (300-317-617). Jenna Barnett (82-86-168 – 50TH), Nadia Burda (90-94-184-78th), and Tess Shieve (96-99-195-87th) posted counting scores for St. Cloud. “Tremendous all-around season for this young ladies,” Endicott added. “To qualify for the state championship as a team is a tremendous achievement and given it was a first-time state tournament, I thought they handled the pressure well.”
The 2021 St. Cloud team is only the second girls’ golf team in history to qualify for the state championship tournament from Osceola County.
TOHOPEKALIGA FOOTBALL HEADED IN NEW DIRECTION
When spring practice rolls around in May, Tohopekaliga will have its fourth head coach in five years in charge. Athletic Director Lonnie Flores announced this week that Jeff Higgins would not be retained for a second season and a search is beginning immediately for the Tigers’ next head coach.
“We had a meeting and reached the decision that the program needs to head in another direction,” Flores said. “It was a hard season and there were a lot of extenuating circumstances but in the end, it was decided that a fresh start was needed.”
The Higgins era was marked with some controversy and other issues from the very start. Prior to the opening of spring football, several high-profile players announced their intentions to transfer to other schools. Covid and Covid-tracing issues kept several players and Higgins off the field for numerous games this past season and injuries depleted a squad that was already thin on depth.
A 2-8 season was the result, where Tohopekaliga was shut out six times and outscored 412-62 on the season – including a 40-0 loss to Lake Nona to end the year. Other losses included an ugly 71-0 loss to Minneola in the season opener, a 69-0 loss to Osceola, and a 44-0 loss to Hagerty, where a running clock started early in the second quarter.
Despite having to make a fourth head coaching change in the school’s five-year history, Flores said he remains extremely optimistic about the school’s football future. “Frankly, we have had some bad luck in that our first two head coaches found some success but left for different reasons unrelated to the school,” Flores said of Anthony Davis, who left to return his original home in South Florida and Marc Deas, who left for a coaching job at a private academy. “I think we have a lot to offer here at Tohopekaliga and I also believe in my heart there is a lot of potential for success here. There’s no doubt we are going to have a lot of interest and applications for this position
JULIAN POMALES/CATALINA EDWARDS OUTSTANDING AT STATE CROSS COUNTRY MEET
Tohopekaliga’s Julian Pomales and Celebration’s Catalina Edwards were the top county athletes at this year’s FHSAA State Cross Country Championships that were contested at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Fla. on Nov. 12.
Pomales was the top individual boy’s finishers from Osceola County as he finished 22nd overall – covering the 5K course in 16:16.7. Pomales led the Tigers team, which had its highest finish ever, taking 14th place in the Class 4A State Championship.
Joining Pomales was Jonathan Comacho (16:47), Javan Medina (17:28.4), Zaniel Lizardo (17:40.4), and Max Ciulla (18:15.0), as the Tigers had scoring positions of 22, 50, 102, 114, and 159 for a team total of 403.
Harmony’s Joel Jean, competing as an individual, finished in 35th place overall in 16:29.8.
In the girl’s 4A Final, Celebration’s Catalina Edwards earned all-state honors with an eighth-place finish. The junior covered the distance in 19:14.5, the fourth-fastest time by an underclassmen performer in the event.
The Longhorns girls team qualified as a team and finished in 22nd place overall in Class 4A and were led by Lailana Decker (24th overall) and Alaine Rivera (44th overall).