The Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A Swimming & Diving Championships — postponed a week by Hurricane Nicole — were held at the Sailfish Splash Waterpark Aquatic Center in Stuart on Friday, Nov. 18. It was a memorable event for the King’s Academy boys and girls swimming and diving teams.
The Lions’ quartet of Ava Fasano (backstroke), Aly Bozzuto (breaststroke), Emma Herrera (butterfly) and Julianna Bell (freestyle) had an unforgettable experience as they won the FHSAA Class 1A championship A final of the 200-yard medley relay in 1:42.41. They narrowly edged the second-place squad from the Bolles School in Jacksonville by less than one-tenth of a second to capture first place.
“The girls 200 medley relay taking first place is a dream come true,” TKA girls head swim coach Gina Proscia said. “The talent was there, and the girls were all swimming really well. Coach [Jonathan] Zuchowski and I believed in them all season. These girls bring the best out in each other.”
The state swim meet was also unforgettable for Bozzuto, who won the state title in the girls 50-yard freestyle (see related story, page 21).
Last year, TKA had strong performances by its boys and girls swimming and diving teams. In the team points competition last year, the boys finished second and the girls finished fourth. Both were program-best performances. This year, the boys were looking to produce another strong performance, but the girls were looking to improve upon last year’s fourth-place finish. Both groups achieved their goals.
This year, TKA had a relay team in all three relays for both boys and girls. In addition to the first-place finish from TKA’s girls 200-yard medley relay quartet, TKA’s girls 200-yard freestyle relay team (Ava Fasano, Aly Bozzuto, Kiersten Munna and Julianna Bell) had an outstanding effort in the morning preliminaries by swimming the fastest time (1:35.68). That evening, that foursome cut their time by more than two seconds, down to 1:33.64, but were defeated in the championship by the relay team from Bolles, which won the event with a time of 1:32.82. The Lions’ girls 400-yard freestyle relay team (Emma Herrera, Kiersten Munna, Paige Munna and Madison Sipowski) finished in sixth place in the championship A final with a time of 3:22.22.
In the three boys relays, TKA’s 200-yard medley team qualified for the championship A final with the fifth-fastest time in the morning preliminaries and responded that night with a fourth-place finish in the championship, with a time of 1:38.18. The 200-yard freestyle relay team (Noah Engstrom, Hamilton Gates, Tyler Wilkinson and Aaron McQueeney) swam the eight-lap race in 1:28.18 to secure fourth place, while the 400-yard freestyle relay team (Noah Smith, Noah Engstrom, Hamilton Gates and Maxwell Strohecker) grabbed third place with a time of 3:12.41.
In the individual events, TKA had eight girls and five boys competing in Stuart.
In the individual events, sisters Kiersten and Paige Munna represented the school in the girls 200-yard freestyle. Kiersten, a sophomore, advanced to the consolation B final, where she recorded a time of 1:53.39 — good enough for 10th place. Paige, a senior, didn’t advance beyond the morning preliminaries.
In the girls 200-yard individual medley, Amanda Loomis qualified for the consolation B final, where she had an overall 15th place finish with a time of 2:09.24.
In the girls 50-yard freestyle, the Lions had three swimmers — Aly Bozzuto, Ava Fasano and Julianna Bell — competing in the race. Bozzuto was the top seed, and she had the fastest time in the morning (22.97), and then followed that with a faster time in the evening championship A final (22.69) to win the state title. Fasano also qualified for the A final, while Bell earned a spot in the B final. Fasano was fourth (23.61), while Bell was 10th (24.21).
In the girls 100-yard butterfly, Emma Herrera swam fast enough (56.63) in the morning to earn an outside lane as the eighth seed in the championship A final. That evening, she improved her time (56.20) and finished seventh.
In the girls 100-yard freestyle, TKA had three swimmers competing — Kiersten Munna, Madison Sipowski and Julianna Bell. Munna and Sipowski earned spots in the evening races. Munna finished in eighth place (52.24), and Sipowski was 13th (52.82). Bell, with a time of 53.62, did not advance beyond the preliminaries.
In the girls 500-yard freestyle, Emma Herrera and Paige Munna swam the 20-lap race, as they did last year at states. This year, Herrera had the fifth-fastest time (4:59.66) in the morning, which propelled her into the championship A final, where she improved her time (4:59.18) but dropped down to sixth place. Munna just missed earning a spot in the consolation B final with a time of 5:13.76 in the morning.
In the girls 100-yard backstroke, Ava Fasano had the 12th fastest time (57.06) in the morning, which put her in the consolation B final. That night, Fasano finished in 11th place (57.49).
In the girls 100-yard breaststroke, Aly Bozzuto and Madison Sipowski represented TKA. Both girls had strong swims in the morning and both advanced to the championship A final. Bozzuto had the fastest qualifying time (1:02.08), while Sipowski was the fifth-fastest qualifier (1:04.12). That evening, Bozzuto improved her time (1:01.72), but just missed another state title as Olivia Dinehart, the defending Class 1A state champion in the event, touched the wall first (1:01.60). Sipowski finished in seventh place with a time of 1:05.39.
In the girls one-meter diving competition, the Lions’ sole diver was senior Madison Okon, who was focused on improving upon her 14th-place finish from 2021. This year, she finished seventh with 355.40 points.
As a result of the many strong finishes by the girls swimmers, TKA finished in second place in the overall team race. The Bolles School won the girls division.
“This year, the girls really stepped up and rallied together,” Proscia said. “They did an amazing job supporting each other, encouraging and cheering each other. They believed in each other and really tried to honor our team verse: ‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.’”
In the boys races, Noah Smith and Noah Engstrom swam in the 50-yard freestyle. After the morning preliminaries, Smith earned the last spot in the championship A final (21.24), while Engstrom finished in 15th place, which earned him a spot in the consolation B final. Both Smith and Engstrom had strong evening swims. Smith moved up to fourth place, and Engstrom advanced to 11th place.
In the boys 100-yard freestyle, Noah Engstrom was joined by teammate Hamilton Gates. Engstrom finished in a tie for 11th place (47.78), and Gates didn’t advance out of the morning preliminary round. He finished 22nd with a time of 48.76.
In the boys 100-yard backstroke, Noah Smith and Hamilton Gates represented TKA. Smith had the third-fastest morning swim and competed in the championship A final. In the morning session, his time was 50.43. That evening, Smith improved his time by nearly a second as he went 49.59 and finished second, just behind the winner, who was Landon Kyser from the Bolles School with a winning time of 49.02. Gates’ time was 54.13, which was the 17th fastest time in the morning session, finishing one spot out of the consolation B final.
In the boys 100-yard breaststroke, Timothy McQueeney and Tyler Wilkinson competed for the Lions. Tyler finished in 20th place (1:00.20), and McQueeney was in 22nd place (1:01.42).
In the team race, the TKA boys squad finished in fifth place with 133.5 points. Bolles won the boys division with 546 points.
“The boys did a great job at states,” said Zuchowski, the head coach of TKA’s boys swim team. “We could not be prouder of their fifth-place finish. Our team was led by juniors Noah Smith with 32 points and Noah Engstrom with 11.5 points. The key to our success was our three relays, all finishing in fourth place with a huge effort from our underclassmen. Noah Smith was our MVP with his second-place and fourth-place finishes. He swims faster the bigger the stage. He has been a leader all season.”