The King’s Academy’s boys and girls high school swim teams are now two of the elite high school swimming programs in the state. During this year’s Class 1A Florida High School Athletic Association annual swimming championship held Saturday, Nov. 6 in Stuart, TKA’s boys team was the runner-up, and the girls team finished in fourth place in the overall team standings.
Leading the way for the boys squad was senior Joshua Zuchowski, who captured the state championship in two events: the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke. In addition to winning the 200 IM for the third-straight year and the 100 back for the fourth consecutive year at the state meet, Zuchowski, a Stanford University commit, set a Florida high school record in the IM with a time of 1:45.51. He broke the previous state record time of 1:46.31, set by Bradley Ally from St. Thomas Aquinas in 2004.
In addition to his two first place swims, Zuchowski was a member of TKA’s 200-yard freestyle relay team and the 400-yard freestyle relay team. The 200-yard freestyle team finished in third place with a time of 1:26.83. The 400-yard freestyle team finished in a tie for fourth with Trinity Prep of Winter Park with a time of 3:10.57. Joining Zuchowski on the 200-freestyle team were Noah Engstrom (sophomore), Diego Barberna (junior) and Christian Proscia (senior). The other three swimmers on the 400-yard team were Barberna, Proscia and Noah Smith (sophomore).
The other TKA boys relay team, the 200-yard medley squad, finished in seventh place with a time of 1:38.08. The four swimmers were Smith, Tyler Wilkinson (freshman), Barberna and Engstrom. Smith swam the backstroke, Wilkinson did the breaststroke, Barberna was the butterfly specialist and Engstrom swam the freestyle leg of the race.
Other boys who had standout performances for TKA were Proscia, who finished in 11th place in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:42.85; Smith and Engstrom, who finished in eighth and 10th places, respectively, in the 50 freestyle. Smith’s time was 21.35, while Engstrom’s time was 21.74. In the boys 500-yard freestyle, Proscia finished in sixth place. His time was 4:38.00. In the boys 100-yard backstroke, in addition to Zuchowski’s first-place finish, Smith finished in sixth place. He completed the race in 50.79. The overall team winner in the boys competition was the Bolles School from Jacksonville.
Jonathan Zuchowski, the head coach of TKA’s swim teams and Joshua’s father, was thrilled by the performances in Stuart.
“There is no doubt the pressure was on Josh,” coach Zuchowski said. “The expectation was that he would win both events (the 200 IM and 100 backstroke). He was prepared and was never leaving without two golds. Whatever the time needed to be, he would have been .01 ahead. Josh swam a personal best in the 200 IM and, given the circumstances, we were happy.”
He also had high praise for the overall boys team.
“It was a great year,” he added. “We are all still numb from the boys’ second place. It was the greatest performance by the swim program in school history. It was a true underdog story, and the perfect picture of a small group of boys coming together for a common goal. All the boys were rock stars.”
In the girls competition, the fourth-place finish from TKA team was the result of three strong finishes in the three relays, as well a number of solid finishes from swimmers in both the championship and consolation finals. The TKA girls were represented in the championship and/or consolation finals of every individual event, with the exception of the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
The evening session of championship and consolation finals began with the girls 200-yard medley relay. Coming out of the morning preliminary races, TKA had the fourth-fastest qualifying time, but the four-person team of junior Ava Fasano (backstroke), sophomore Alyssa Bozzuto (breaststroke), freshman Emma Herrera (butterfly) and freshman Kiersten Munna (freestyle) had an outstanding swim in the evening finals and finished second to Bolles. The time for TKA’s quartet was 1:44.86, bettering their morning qualifying time of 1:47.38.
The TKA girls team excelled in the other two relays as well. In the 200 freestyle relay, the team of Fasano, Bozzuto, Kiersten Munna and freshman Julianna Bell competed in the championship final and finished second to the team from Bolles. That foursome swam the eight-lap race in 1:33.77, which was an automatic All-American time. In the 400 freestyle relay, the group of Herrera, Paige Munna, junior Amanda Loomis and junior Madison Sipowski swam in the championship final, finishing in seventh place. Their time 3:35.77.
In the individual events, Kiersten Munna finished in eighth place in the 200 freestyle (2:04.71). In the 200 IM, Herrera finished in 11th place (2:09.01), and Sipowski was in 15th (2:11.75). In the 50 freestyle, TKA had two girls in the championship final. Fasano was fourth (23.51), and Bozzuto was eighth (24.12).
In the 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard breaststroke, TKA was represented in both the championship and consolation finals. In the 500 freestyle, Herrera swam in the championship final and was eighth (5:09.17). Paige Munna competed in the consolation final and was 16th (5:08.24). In the 100 backstroke, Fasano swam in the championship finals. She was clocked at 56.76 to finish eighth. Kiersten Munna swam in the consolation finals. She was second in that race with a time of 57.36, which gave her 10th place overall. In the 100 breaststroke, Bozutto finished in seventh place (1:04.67), while Sipowski was 13th (1:06.99).
In the one-meter diving competition, junior Madison Okon picked up three team points with her 14th-place finish. Her points total was 343.15. The overall team winner in the girls competition was Bolles.
Coach Zuchowski was impressed by the performance of the TKA girls in Stuart.
“The highlight of the state meet, in terms of times, was Kiersten Munna in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:51.64, and Madison Sipowski in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:05.21,” he said. “The girls 200 medley relay was awesome. We got fourth in the morning preliminaries by design and tried to surprise [eventual winner] Bolles in the championship final. We lost by less than a second. The 200 freestyle relay was the same. All four girls were incredible, and we finished second.”