Winter Park High School’s boys and girls swimming and diving teams made a big splash at the recent district meet.
The Winter Park High School swimming and diving teams are making waves — and hoping they lead to a consistent winning culture.
Winter Park’s boys and girls teams each captured their respective district championships at their meet on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Winter Park High School. The girls took the top spot with a total of 613 points, while the boys finished in first place with 605 points.
It was all thanks to a team effort by both groups and some stellar individual performances. Leading the way for the girls was Locket Bowley — who won the championships for the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races — and Caroline Cooper — who came out on top in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard fly races. Bowley and Cooper also got some help from Erika Hirschmann and Moriah Freitas to take the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The boys team got some help from Hector Rodriguez, who took first place in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke. The 200- and 400-yard medley relay team came out on top with a district championship, as well. Yashar Pourmoghadam, Hector Rodriguez, John Beattie and Emmanuel De Diego made up the 200-yard team, and Ezequiel Negron, Yashar Pourmoghadam, Mohamed Refaat and Hector Rodriguez swam the 400-yard relay.
“The kids have been working so hard, and we’re really sticklers about going to all the practices,” swimming coach Joe Auer said. “The kids responded, and they worked really hard and helped each other through all of the difficult workouts. They became more of a family, because they’re dealing with all of the pain and how hard it is to get through these workouts. They really came together, and it’s just showing in the pool now.”
It’s Auer’s third year with the program, and he hopes to bring a winning culture back to the school for which it was known in the 1980s and ’90s.
“Winter Park traditionally over the years has been a good swimming program — they’ll win districts or definitely metro every once in a while,” Auer said. “Way back in the ’80s and ’90s, they used to win them all the time. Now we’re just trying to bring that back. The coaches and I are trying to get swimming back to where it was. … We’re pushing real hard to win those types of meets and prepare for them.”
So far, the Wildcats have seen that consistency. Only the boys took district two years ago, but last year, both teams won districts. Auer also gave a shout out to the diving team — four divers on the girls group advanced to the regional meet.
“We’re just trying to grow off of that and get better and better each year,” Auer said. “Hopefully, we start winning some regions and then hopefully we win some state one day. … That would be nice.”
Hector Rodriguez came up just short of a state championship of his own last year with a second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke. He’s hungry to get back, he said.
“States are only two weeks away — I’ve had states on my mind since I got second last year,” he said. “I feel pretty ready for it. This year is my last year, my senior year, so I’m going to try and win it.”
Meanwhile, Locket Bowley is just getting started as a freshman. Despite the individual success in districts, she said she is just enjoying finding herself as a swimmer.
“I just kind of wanted to get up there and swim — I wanted to have fun,” Bowley said.
One of Auer’s biggest points of emphasis with the team isn’t in the pool but rather in the mind. The coach has pushed swimmers to win and compete without high-end tech suits or shaving. If they can do that, they’ll reach the next level, he said.
“It’s a mental game … some kids are strong enough mentally that they don’t need it,” Auer said. “That’s why I want to get these kids to that level.”
The district championships are nice, but the teams have their sights set on the state meets. Winter Park swimmers look to have a successful showing at the regional meet at Lake Howell High School Friday, Nov. 2.
“We have a nice future here — it’s going to be good the next couple years,” Auer said.