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Westchase TBAY Swimmers Mark Successes in Busy Spring

March Madness is a well-known basketball phrase.

In the swimming pool, there was no waiting for March – at least not for a TBAY Westchase contingent that’s been wall-to-wall busy since the holiday break.

Two weeks into the New Year, the branch co-hosted its largest meet to date when it put on the SPA/TBAY $1.50/Event Races in St. Petersburg. Thanks to loads of great parent volunteers, the meet was a smashing success. The swimmers played a part in that success, too, of course! From the Westchase branch alone, 64 athletes took part and several posted significant drops in their top times.

“Our team had a great experience co-hosting a meet with St. Pete Aquatics,” TBAY Westchase coach Alex Richardson said. “It was a great fundraiser for our program. The swimmers had above-and-beyond performances for our first meet of the season. Their improvements – and there were some big ones – show just how hard they worked during the winter holidays.”

Just a few weeks later, TBAY Westchase was back in the pool at the eighth annual Gasparilla Meet, hosted by the TBAY Central branch at Tampa Prep. The older swimmers each competed in one distance event on Friday night before turning the spotlight over to the younger ones. Almost 40 athletes 12-and-younger represented Westchase on Saturday and Sunday. While it’s typicaly one of the colder meets of the winter, Mother Nature cooperated with an unseasonably warm and sunny weekend.

At the meet Paige Easton finished second and Aly Johnston was third in the 8-and-under high point chase. Abby Williams came within a half-second of earning her Florida Age Group (FLAG) Championship cut (qualifying time) in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Distance swimmers Maddie Strasen and Anne Marie Johnson dropped six and nine seconds respectively in the 400 IM while Elliot Easton, Sam Prabhakaran and Samuel Williams all posted improvements in the 500 free. Meanwhile Rafael Borromeo, Nico Libreros, Prabhakaran and Williams conquered the mile (1,650 free) for the first time ever and Danny Harris and Margaret Parker recorded triple- and double-digit improvements in the same. Rounding out the accomplishments, Isabel Minnis added 1,000 yards of freestyle to the team's impressive distance total.

“Our 12-and-under team had great performances at the TBAY Gasparilla Meet,” Richardson noted. “Each swimmer went home with a best time and we had two high-point finishers. We had a great time supporting TBAY Nation and racing fast!”

The schedule didn’t slow the following month. It began with the SPA Last Chance meet – the last meet in which swimmers can earn those coveted FLAG and Senior Championship cuts for the upcoming championship meets. The Senior Champs meet was in Orlando at the end of February, with Maddie Strasen and Isabel Minnis having qualified as of press time for March’s WOW.

FLAGS, Florida Gulf Coast Senior Championships and the Area 3/5 Championships all take place in March.

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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Westchase TBAY Team Loving New Pool Canopies

Neither rain nor sleet nor heat nor gloom of night keeps these swimmers from the swift completion of their appointed laps.

OK, it’s a paraphrasing of an old United States Postal Service credo, but it applies to the TBAY Westchase swimmers now more than ever. Because of their tireless dedication? Of course. Because of their commitment to reaching their 2015 goals? Certainly. Because of a sparkling new canopy that helps keep the elements from beating down on them during practice sessions?
Well, that too!

If you haven’t been to the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center pool in a while, you might be surprised to see a new canopy covering the east side of the pool. It’s over the starting blocks, helping to keep the sun and rain off the swimmers and coaches. It came in handy during some wet practices over the recent holiday break. Another canopy shades the “baby pool” as well – clearly an effort to keep those up-and-coming TBAY junior swimmers protected from the elements as they set their sights on racing for the team someday. The canopies are the most noticeable of several recent improvements at the facility.

TBAY Westchase did not compete in any meets over the holiday break. As this issue of WOW was hitting the presses, the club, however, was co-hosting a January meet at North Shore Pool in St. Petersburg. The SPA/TBAY Saturday and Sunday at the Races in mid-January marked the first time the Westchase branch has co-hosted a meet of that magnitude. In addition to the work put in by the swimmers, numerous volunteers were required to make the event a success.

“It’s a big deal,” said TBAY Westchase coach Alex Richardson. “A lot of people have to step up to put on a meet like this. It’s something we’re proud of, and something we’d like to do more of in the future.”

Richardson put his team through some tough training over the break. There were several chilly practices, some rain and some intense training for the upcoming meets. Many of the older swimmers, free from their school responsibilities, took advantage of two-a-day workouts to hone their strokes.

Results of the SPA/TBAY meet will be covered in next month’s WOW. Also coming up on the meet schedule is the eighth annual TBAY Gasparilla Open the weekend of Feb. 6-8 at Tampa Prep.

Richardson encourages anyone who is interested in joining the team to contact the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center. “Just a reminder that our learn-to-swim programs will return in the springtime,” he said, “and we are only taking swimmers with previous swimming ability. Information on swim lessons, TBAY Junior and other developmental groups will become available in late February. Looking forward to a new crop of future TBAY Champions!”

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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TBAY Enjoys Holiday Potluck

The TBAY Westchase swim team took a dive into the New Year after having made a big splash to close out 2014.

The club celebrated its success over the past year and toasted its upcoming 2015 goals (with soft drinks and water, of course) at the annual Holiday Potluck at Baybridge Park. “The team had a great fall season in every age group,” said head coach, Alex Richardson, who recently celebrated his two-year anniversary at the helm. “We are looking forward to refocusing throughout the holidays and then gearing up for a great meet schedule this spring!”

It certainly felt a lot like the holidays as the TBAY Westchase swimmers braved chilly temperatures in the 40s during their morning practice that preceded the bash. The potluck included a gift exchange and a donation drive that benefited a terrific cause – the Tampa Bay Humane Society.

The 2014 calendar year ended with some huge successes for the team. At the year-ending YCF Almost Turkey Meet in Orlando, 8-year-olds Paige Easton and Liam Malony earned high-point championships in their age group. Paige placed first in every event except 25 back, where she was third, while Liam took first or second in every event in which he logged a time. London Palmer placed third for 6-and-unders.

In addition to those fantastic finishes, a dozen swimmers placed in the top eight in at least one event. Those athletes were Richie Bui, Danny Harris, Richard Harris, Aly Johnston, Nico Libreros, Alina Lytvynenko, Gwenyth Martin, Isabel Minnis, Gavin Nolan, Margaret Parker, Sam Prabhakaran and Jake Key, who broke his elbow at a baseball tournament the next day!

Impressive time drops were posted by Francesca Bonanomi, who cut 45 seconds in 4 events; Danny Harris, who dropped in all seven events he swam (29.04 seconds total); and Libreros, who dropped 47.44 seconds over six events.

Easton also won high points for 8-and-unders at the LOLL meet the weekend before, where Tito Borromeo captured high points among the boys in the same age group. Tito’s brother, Rafael, dropped 45.5 seconds in the 500 free, Danny Harris dropped 44.52 in the 1,000 and Sam Williams dropped a-minute-and-a-half in his 1,000 free. Top-three finishers were Tito, Paige, Richie Bui, Daniel Harris, Tyler Henry, Nico Libreros, Dylan Nolan, Margaret Parker, Summer Senior, Gregory Tilzer, Nicole Tilzer and Sam Williams.

“Our last few meets of the season were a great success across the board for our team,” Richardson said. “Many of our swimmers had outstanding finishes in their age group and others showed huge improvements individually.”

High school season also wrapped up on Nov. 7, with Robinson junior Maddie Strasen qualifying for finals in the Class 2A state swim championships. The Knights captain finished 14th in the 100 breaststroke.

Coming up Jan. 17-18 TBAY Westchase is co-hosting a meet with SPA in St. Petersburg.

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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Former TBAY Coach Allen Remembered

Two years after the tragic death of former TBAY Westchase Swim Coach Kelley Allen, all seven TBAY branches gathered at their respective pools to honor their beloved mentor with a moment of silence. “I remember seeing Kelley when I was a young swimmer and thinking he looked like a pirate,” said TBAY Westchase coach Alex Richardson. “Then he came over to TBAY and it was just fitting, because now he really was a pirate [the club mascot]. To get a chance to work with him – to know him as a friend and mentor – he had a great impact on all of us.”

Swimmer Maddie Strasen recalled how Coach Kelley used to race up and down the pool deck, trying to see everything at once. “If everything happens for a reason, and if he had to be taken from us so soon,” Strasen said, “it was so that he could be somewhere where he can see everyone at once.”

Even Coach Kelley might have had trouble keeping up with a frenetic TBAY Westchase schedule over the last month. The team raced at the WFLA Halloween Invitational in Largo, an annual stop on the calendar, and the SPA Penny Per Yard meet in St. Petersburg. In addition, several high schoolers competed at district and regional meets, with two qualifying for the state championships.

At the Oct. 17-19 Halloween meet, Rafael Borromeo, Sam Prabhakaran and Sydney Senior posted 10-second drops in their respective events while Paige Easton and Aly Johnston recorded top-five finishes. Prabhakaran and Savannah Trezza cut 10 seconds in the Nov. 2 SPA meet, while a long list of top-five finishers included Easton, Prabhakaran, Johnston, Armando Destrade, Noah Hall, Tyler Henry, Nicolas Libreros, Liam Maloney, Elizabeth McDonough, Gavin Nolan and Gregory Tilzer.

The club’s high school athletes had been training for peak performances at the district and regional meets that lead to the state championships, and the hard work paid off for several of them. Abby Rose of Sickles made the Class 3A state meet in three events – 50 free, 100 free and the 200 free relay. Strasen, Robinson High School’s captain, made the Class 2A state meet for the second consecutive year in 100 breaststroke while also qualifying for senior championships with her regional 200 free time.

In addition to that pair, Richie Bui, Danny Harris, Isabel Minnis, Tiffany Quach, Ben Brown, Johnny Dang and sixth-grader Summer Senior all qualified for high school regionals, while Erykah Farrant and Katelyn Rosenblum competed at districts.

“Our high school swimmers did a great job this season,” said Richardson proudly. “It’s hard work to represent your school and continue to train with our program. I am very proud of the two ladies who made it to the state competition. They had big goals this season and they really stepped up to the challenge.”

Before taking a week off at Thanksgiving and getting back at it in December, TBAY Westchase was looking forward to the LOLL/TBAY Fall Challenge in mid-November, when the club’s younger swimmers were slated to compete in distance events for the first time. About 40 club swimmers were also scheduled to participate in the YCF Almost Turkey Invitational in Orlando Nov. 21-23. Also coming up is our annual holiday party and lots of holiday training!

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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Five Westchase High Schoolers Make Conference Finals

While younger Westchase swimmers saw new adventures, high school swimmers began to prepare for all-important district, regional and state championships in recent weeks.

The Westchase TBAY club recently attended the Get Rowdy and Race meet in Winter Haven for the first time. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, as rain Friday and Saturday complicated things just a bit for the 23 Westchase swimmers who raced.

It didn’t put a damper on success, though. Paige Easton, Aly Johnston and Drake Palmer turned in top five finishes.  Abby Williams dropped more than 20 seconds in 100 butterfly. Marissa Dunlop cut more than 10 seconds in 100 breaststroke and Dylan Nolan did the same in 100 IM.

Later in the month the weather was lovely in St. Petersburg for the SPA Friday Night at the Races.  Several TBAY Westchase swimmers posted best times, with Emily Kramer dropping more than 10 seconds in 100 back and 100 breast.  Top five finishers were Paige Easton, Noah Hall, Hunter Long, Dylan Nolan, Drake Palmer, Sam Prabhakaran, Leila-Anais Pyrczak, Tristan Sanders, Robert Shaw, Gregory Tilzer, Nicole Tilzer and Sam Williams.

As for the high schoolers, the County Conference Finals were held at Bobby Hicks pool across from Robinson High School. After divisional meets whittled down finalists from all 27 high schools in the conference, the finalists returned to chase conference championships. The top two division finishers in each event, plus two wild cards, reach finals.  Each swimmer can participate in two individual events and two relays.

Abby Rose of Sickles took third in both 50 and 100 free. Maddie Strasen of Robinson was third in 200 free and seventh in 100 breast, while competing on two relay squads along with Robinson teammate Tiffany Quach. Richie Bui of Sickles finished third in 100 breast, while Jefferson’s Isabel Minnis placed fifth in 200 IM.

Up next for high school swimmers are District Championships.

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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TBAY Swimmers Remember Coach Kelly Allen

Eight-year-old Sydney Senior hit the water excited to “go really fast” in the 50-yard butterfly.

It’s considered the most demanding of the four competitive swimming strokes. It was her first time swimming the event in a meet, and in the last 25 yards the youngster was feeling the strain. She slowed down to catch her breath and finished the race, dejected that she had not gone as fast as she’d hoped.

It was then that her sister, Summer, 11, dashed up and consoled her with these words: “Coach Kelley would be so proud of you!”

Coach Kelley was Kelley Allen, the late TBAY Westchase coach whose life was taken in a senseless shooting two years ago. The meet where this scene transpired was the second annual Kelley Allen (KAH2O) Memorial Meet at Countryside, where TBAY Westchase came out in force in honor of the man who made such a lasting impact on its young athletes.

“I was crying under my sunglasses,” said Chris Senior after witnessing the exchange between her daughters. “Sydney sat on my lap as she calmed down after the race and said that Coach Kelley once told her she could call him Charlie for a week at practice if she ever swam 50 fly in a meet.”

As far as his former swimmers were concerned, Coach Charlie – er, Kelley – was watching every stroke of this meet with pride.

“The KAH2O Meet is a personal one for our team,” TBAY Westchase coach Alex Richardson noted, “and we had record-breaking attendance (70 TBAY Westchase swimmers) and impressive overall performances. Four of our girls finished in the top three of their age groups.”

Paige Easton won the overall high point title in the 8-and-under division, with Aly Johnston taking third. Elliot Easton finished second in the 9-10 girls group while Maddie Strasen was third among senior girls.

Westchase had eight swimmers with top three finishes in an individual event (Richie Bui, Elliot Easton, Paige Easton, Aly Johnston, AnneMarie Johnston, Alina Lytvynenko, Isabel Minnis and Strasen) and 11 swimmers with time drops of 10 or more seconds in a single event (Francesa Bonanomi, Tito Borromeo, Emerson Chiado, Marissa Dunlop, AnneMarie Johnston, Ethan Kalichak, Penelope Laret, Nico Liberos, Ella McKee, Dylan Nolan and Sam Prabhakaran).

Participating in their first ever meet were Denver Adams, Ryan Banas, Nolan Becker, Noah Hall, Samantha Hall, Myah Haslop, Elizabeth McDonough, Gavin Nolan, Sara O'Conner, London Palmer, Connor Pelesh, Tyler Pelesh, Greg Tiltzer, Nicole Tiltzer, Kennedy Wesley and Mason Wesley.

The weekend of the KAH2O meet was a busy one for the high school swimmers on TBAY Westchase. It coincided with City Relays at Bobby Hicks pool in South Tampa and required some interesting travel schedules.  Ten members of the TBAY Westchase squad swim for four different high schools: Robinson (Maddie Strasen, captain; and Tiffany Quach), Jefferson (Isabel Minnis), Sickles (Abby Rose, captain; Richie Bui; Katelyn Rosenblum and Eryka Farrant), and Jesuit (Danny Harris; Ben Brown; and Johnny Dang).  Sixth-grader Summer Senior swims for Academy at the Lakes.

“Our team's high school group has grown over the last year and we are excited to represent TBAY Nation in their high school programs,” Richardson said.  “We are training toward a great championship season for districts, regions and hopefully states.”

It’s a good thing many of the TBAY Westchase swimmers were so busy at the aforementioned meets, considering how much they consumed at the awards banquet that preceded them. The program marked the end of the long-course season and the beginning of short-course swimming in 25-yard lanes – the more standard length and the one used in high school competition.

Up next on the schedule for TBAY Westchase is the WIN Get Rowdy & Race Meet, a Friday Night at the Races in St. Petersburg and a rare team event on dry land – the Great West Chase 5K.  “We are looking forward to participating in the Westchase 5K run as a team and supporting the local Westchase community,” Richardson said.

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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TBAY Swimmers Attain Personal Bests at Senior Championships

The long course swimming season is actually the shortest, when measured on the calendar.

That, however, didn’t stop TBAY Westchase from making a huge statement at the championship meets that mark the end of the summer’s long course campaign.

At the Florida Age Group Championships (FLAGs) in Gainesville, Elliot Easton swam best times in each of her four events. The following weekend at Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships in Coral Springs senior swimmers Richie Bui, Isabel Minis, Abby Rose and Maddie Strasen capped the long-course season with more personal bests.

Following those two championship meets was the Area 3/5 Championship Meet in St. Petersburg. Nearly every Westchase swimmer dropped time, with Bui earning Senior Champs cuts in 100 and 200 breast and 50 free. Minnis smashed the 200 back senior cut and also scored another in 100 back. Sam Prabhakaran achieved a FLAG cut in 100 back, while Easton added cuts in 50, 100, and 200 free, 50 and 100 back, and 200 IM to her FLAG collection. Several swimmers had top ten finishes in their events. These were Bui, Elliot Easton, Paige Easton, Danny Harris, AnneMarie Johnson, Aly Johnson, David James, Jacob Key, Nico Libreros, Minnis, Prabhakaran, Margaret Parker, Rose, Katelyn Rosenblum and Strasen.

“Our team had another unbelievable Summer Championship Meet,” said TBAY Westchase Coach Alex Richardson, who attributed the great results to the hard work put in by swimmers during the summer training program and – for some – trips to Florida Atlantic University and the U.S. Olympic Training Center. “TBAY Westchase swimmers saw outstanding best times and had many competitive races. Their hard work and dedication this summer really paid off.”

Before this edition of WOW hit the presses, TBAY Westchase honored its swimmers with the annual summer awards banquet. Next on the schedule is the meet formerly known as Sweet September, but now named after the late Kelley Allen, the popular former TBAY Westchase coach. The KAH2O Memorial Meet takes place Sept. 5-7 at TBAY Countryside.

Richardson also wanted to express gratitude to those who taught swim lessons this summer. These valuable instructors worked very hard and helped mold many new swimmers who have become part of our TBAY Family!

Ally Strasen is a former TBAY Westchase swimmer and Robinson High School varsity swimming captain/alumna who currently attends Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she is a special education major. This is her second summer as a lesson instructor and she is a valued member of our team.

Jimmy Dang, also a former TBAY Westchase swimmer and Jesuit High School varsity swimming alum who swam on the state-qualifying 200 free relay, will be attending the University of Florida this fall. Dang is in his second year as a swim lesson instructor and also served as an assistant coach this summer, working primarily with the Age Group team.

Austin Sellers is another former TBAY Westchase swimmer who currently swims for Academy Aquatic Club. He is a senior at Jesuit High School. Sellers is a high school state finalist and a Junior National Qualifier. He is in his second summer as a lesson instructor.

Paige Schmidt was a Division II Scholarship swimmer for Wingate University. She will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to earn her master's degree in sports management and has coached all levels of swimming at TBAY Westchase.

Jordan Richardson, a conference finalist for Division I Florida Atlantic University, is in her first summer with TBAY Westchase and will continue as an assistant coach working with the TBAY Jr, Age Group and Elite swimmers.

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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TBAY Westchase: From FAU to Colorado

The TBAY Westchase swimmers combined work and play on a weeklong trip to Boca Raton for a training camp at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

They worked on their strokes during two daily practices, while dodging rain and storms the whole time. The work paid off, as there were some outstanding swims turned in at the end of the week at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatics International Invitational.

There was also some fun to be had. During the week, the swimmers had the opportunity to experience college life while staying in the campus dorms. They also participated in team-building exercises put on by the FAU Recreation Department. And, of course, they experienced the rare chance to train at a long-course collegiate facility. “By the end of the week,” said head coach Alex Richardson, “our swimmers were as fierce as most college athletes.”

Two TBAY Westchase athletes had particularly memorable performances in recent weeks. Elliot Easton earned her Florida Age Group (FLAG) times in both the 50 and 100 butterfly at the TBAY Lakeland meet. She became the only Westchase swimmer with four FLAG “cuts,” having already qualified in two breaststroke races.

Another TBAY Westchase swimmer, Maddie Strasen, enjoyed a Rocky Mountain high in July. The Robinson High captain was invited to a weeklong camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Maddie, along with a group of TBAY athletes from the area initially trained in Denver. They worked to become acclimated to the mile-high altitude, then went to Colorado Springs for an Olympic-like experience at the facilities where gold medalists hone their skills.

TBAY Westchase hosted its first ever developmental, intra-squad mini-meet for the younger swimmers on July 12. It gave those without much meet experience the chance to perform under real meet conditions; meanwhile the older swimmer officiated and helped run the event. All of the nearly 40 swimmers, including about 20 first-timers, had a fantastic time. The event was a huge success.

Four senior swimmers – Richie Bui, Isabel Minnis, Abby Rose and Maddie Strasen – also qualified to swim in the FCG Senior Championships the weekend of July 25-26 (WOW’s August deadline occurred prior to the meet). The team is also looking forward to the Area 3/5 Championships Aug. 1-3 in St. Petersburg and our annual awards banquet on Aug. 16.
Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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TBAY Westchase Swimmers Give Back and Train Hard

Swimming has given a lot to many of the TBAY Westchase athletes – a sense of dedication, a strong work ethic and lots of smiles and great times with friends.

Few things are more rewarding than giving back. TBAY did just that at the Swim Across America open-water event held May 31 at Clearwater Beach. The overall TBAY contingent raised more than $26,000 to support Moffitt Cancer Center. Maddie Strasen, who swam the “marathon” 2.4-mile distance, raised $1,690 – more than any other under-18 participant. TBAY Westchase also made waves in the competition, with Coach Paige and Jacob Key finishing first and second, respectively, in the half-mile event. Forty swimmers, parents and coaches from TBAY Westchase participated.

Earlier last month, at a Saturday and Sunday Morning at the Races Meet in St. Petersburg, Elliot Easton earned her first FLAG (Florida Age Group) Championships cut in the 50 breaststroke. She earned a second cut at CAT (Clearwater) in the 100 breast. Additionally, the SPA meet was the first long-course meet for Francesca Bonanomi, Tito Borromeo, Emerson Chiado, Paige Easton, Devin Hurst, Aly Johnston, AnneMarie Johnston, Emily Kramer, Liam Maloney, Ella McKee, Ava Tompkins, Abby Williams and Sam Williams. In addition a group of the more veteran swimmers (Richie Bui, Isabel Minnis, Margaret Parker, Abby Rose and Maddie Strasen) took part in the All-Florida Senior Circuit meet June 8 in Orlando.

Summer is an exciting time for TBAY Westchase. With no school commitments, it’s a time when swimmers can truly dedicate themselves to the sport and see dramatic improvement in performance. To that end, the Elite Performance Program is keeping the most dedicated of the group busy with two pool sessions, dry land training and instruction each day. Coach Alex Richardson started the program last summer and it paid off for several swimmers in the high school and fall season.

“We are hosting our second year of the Elite Performance Program and we are excited about seeing another successful summer of swimming,” Coach Alex said. “These swimmers will get extensive dry-land training, nutritional seminars and additional technique time to foster improvement in all areas of swimming.”

Opportunities for instruction and improvement will not be limited to the local pools for several TBAY Westchase swimmers. A June training trip to Florida Atlantic University included no less than 10 TBAY Westchase athletes, along with several from the Arbor Green branch of TBAY. Just a few days after returning from that experience, Maddie Strasen also has the opportunity to spend a week swimming at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with a group from the larger TBAY squad. Olympic coaches and athletes are expected to be on hand.

TBAY will be hosting an upcoming Lakeland meet at which the Westchase branch will send a team of 10-and-under swimmers. In addition Westchase will be holding its own intra-squad developmental meet on July 12. It will be a great opportunity for TBAY Junior swimmers to prepare for bigger meets.

Many of those TBAY Junior swimmers first got their feet wet taking swim lessons at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center. The swim lesson program has been booming this summer. At least one new session will be opening in August, so hurry up and get those TBAY Westchase champions of the future signed up. Stay tuned for more details!

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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Gold Medalist Brooke Bennett Visits Westchase

On April 26 at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center several TBAY Westchase swimmers had authentic Olympic gold medals draped around their necks.

While they weren’t gold medals won by the Westchase swimmers themselves, the thrill – like the medals – was very real. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett, a Tampa native, was in Westchase to conduct an open-water clinic for the 2014 Swim Across America event, and she graciously shared her 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games hardware.

Bennett covered a variety of topics in her session, from nutrition and training to mental preparation and the importance of team camaraderie. An only child, Brooke said she always thought of her teammates as her brothers and sisters. When asked if she ever felt like she had disappointed people with a bad swim, she advised, “You can’t swim for anyone else but yourself.”

The clinic was well-attended by TBAY Westchase, just as the May 31 Swim Across America (SAA) event at Clearwater Beach was expected to be. Last year TBAY was out in remarkable force at SAA, raising more money than any other area team to benefit the Moffitt Cancer Center.

“TBAY Westchase is excited to support the Moffitt Cancer Center again this year through Swim Across America,” said Coach Alex Richardson. “Our kids are always excited to give their time and skills to raise awareness for cancer research.”

As of press time, nearly 30 swimmers and parents (including Coach Alex) were signed up to participate.

The TBAY Westchase swimmers also competed in two meets since the last WOW deadline. They made waves at the third annual Land O’ Lakes Spring Classic on April 27 and the WFLA Spring Open on May 2-4 in Largo. At the LOLL/STA meet, which sandwiched Bennett’s clinic, 20 swimmers achieved personal best times. Dropping more than 10 seconds in a single event were Rafael Borromeo, Dane Christensen, Elliot Easton, Abigail Hartley and AnneMarie Johnston. First through third-place finishes were had by Antonio Borromeo, Richie Bui, Dane Christensen, Elliot Easton, Paige Easton, Daniel Harris, Richard Harris, Sadie Jacobson, Isabel Minnis, Dylan Nolan, Margaret Parker and Maddie Strasen.

Coach Alex noted, “The WFLA meet in Largo was our team’s first Long Course meet of the summer. Many swimmers did their first-ever long course races in Largo and were excited to try a new style of competitive swimming.”

Swimmers participating in their first (and rather intimidating) long course (50-meter) meet were Armando Destrade, Erykah Farrant, Ryan Farrant, Abby Hartley, Dylan Nolan, Luke Lozosky, Kate Rideout, Madeline Rideout and Jack Wilson.

The team also participated in the Saturday and Sunday Morning at the Races long course meet held May 17-18 at the North Shore Pool in St. Pete. Look for updates on this meet and Swim Across America in the next WOW!

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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TBAY Westchase Swimmers Fly at Area 3/5 Championships

Thunderstorms wiped out two sessions of the Area 3/5 Championships in Sarasota, but they did not dampen TBAY swimmers’ outstanding performances.

One of the biggest meets of the spring season, it saw several Westchase athletes post top-eight overall finishes, while many others turned in their personal bests in multiple events. In swimming, getting to the wall faster than ever before is cause for celebration – rain or shine.

Coach Alex Richardson was understandably pleased with his team’s performance and described the meet as a great success. “The Area 3/5 Meet showed big improvements for our team. Every swimmer bettered their times and many finished top eight in their age group,” he said.

Richie Bui brought home a championship in the 100 breaststroke, while adding a fourth-place finish in the 50 freestyle and a seventh-place showing in 200 IM. Nicolas Libreros placed in two butterfly events – finishing third at 50 yards and sixth at 100. Sam Prabhakaran did the same in backstroke, claiming fifth in the 100 and seventh in the 50. Daniel Harris took seventh in the 200 back.

Among the girls, Maddie Strasen and Isabel Minnis each notched top-eight finishes in four events. Maddie was third in the 200 breast and 100 free, fourth in 400 IM and fifth in 50 free. Isabel took fifth in the 100 back and seventh in the 200 breast, 200 back and 200 IM. Margaret Parker placed in three events, getting fourth in 200 fly, fifth in 100 back and eighth in the 50 free. Also among the girls, Katherine Rideout finished second in 50 breast while Paige Easton claimed fourth in 50 breast. Seventh-place finishes were also turned in by Elliot Easton in the 100 breast and Madeline Rideout in 200 breast.

In addition to the medals and ribbons swimmers brought home, several Westchase competitors chopped significant time off their previous bests. Cutting more than 10 total seconds in an event were Savanna Becker, Rafael Borromeo, Johnny Dang, Armando Destrade, Erykah Farrant, Brody Grissom, Richard Harris, Sadie Jacobson, David James, AnneMarie Johnston, Jacob Key, Nicolas Libreros, Isabel Minnis, Margaret Parker and Sam Prabhakaran. Swimming in their first-ever meet were Rhett and Rockwell Palmer.

In addition to their prowess in the pool, the TBAY Westchase swimmers have also been known to make a dent in food trays from time to time. They did just that at the annual Spring Picnic on March 23 – a well-attended event at which the upcoming schedule was discussed. That schedule includes the LOLL meet April 25 and 27 in Land O’ Lakes. On April 26 Olympian Brooke Bennett hosted a clinic at our pool for TBAY swimmers participating in May’s Swim Across America. Look for updates in the upcoming editions of the WOW!

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen


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TBAY Swimmers Splash into Short Course Championships

March and April are short-course championship meet time for Westchase swimmers.

First came Senior Champs in Orlando, which is for swimmers who are 15 and older and who have qualifying times. Westchase’s Maddie Strasen, 16, swam in events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

FLAGS, known to swimmers as Junior Olympics, was held in Sarasota March 13-16 for swimmers 14 and under. TBAY Westchase sent five swimmers who achieved the very challenging qualifying times – Jacob Key, Kory Kimura, Zachary Bennett, Joshua Bennett and Eliot Easton.

The last short course championship meet is March 28-30, held after WOW deadline in Sarasota. That meet is open to all swimmers.

In April the long course season starts for our swimmers. A long course meet uses a pool that is 50 meters in length. Some pools, like the Northshore pool in St. Petersburg or the Long Center in Clearwater, can be adjusted to accommodate either length. Our Westchase pools, however, can only accommodate the standard 25 yards so our swimmers must adapt when they attend long course meets. Some swimmers who aren’t as fast on flip turns and off the walls actually swim better in long course meets. Others find the longer swim to the wall a challenge.

For more information about the team, please visit


By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Swimmers Tackle Chilly Meets

Sixteen of our TBAY Westchase swimmers started their swimming New Year off at a meet in Naples, Florida on Jan. 18-20.

Four other TBAY branches attended the meet as well. Unfortunately for our 13-and-older swimmers, they had to be at warm ups at 6:45 a.m. when it was 37 degrees outside. The parents had to scrape ice off of their car windows to drive to the pool. The older swimmers actually had steam coming off of their bodies when they got out of the pool. By the time the 12-and-under swimmers arrived for their session in the afternoon, it had warmed up into the 80s. When we went back for finals and the sun went down, however, the parents had to huddle under blankets to stay warm. These kids are tough! (The parents complained and we didn’t even get in the pool.) At the meet first through third place finishes were achieved by Jacob Key, Joshua Bennett and Nicholas Libreros.

A few weeks later our swimmers had beautiful weather at a meet in St. Petersburg. All of our 13-and-over swimmers raced by time rather than age, which provided an interesting challenge. At most meets, swimmers race by age or are ranked by age. At this meet, however, everyone 13-and-over swam against each other regardless of their ages. Jacob Key made a new FLAG (known to swimmers as JO’s or Junior Olympics) cut in the 100 Back. First through third place finishes were had by Paige Easton, Dane Christensen, Dylan Nolan and Kate Rideout. Four of our swimmers completed the 1,000-yard race, which is a very long way to swim quickly.

A week later our swimmers attended the Gasparilla meet at TBAY Central’s pool at Tampa Prep. This is a meet they attend every year with all of the other TBAY branches as well as other teams. The 13-and-over swimmers had 6:45 a.m. warm ups again. This time the weather was in the 50s. While still chilly, it was much more tolerable than the 30s at Naples. Zachary Bennett and Kory Kimura achieved new FLAG/JO cuts and first through third place finishes were achieved by Sadie Jacobson, Richard Harris, Joshua Bennett, Paige Easton, Christopher Quach, Kory Kimura and Kate Rideout.

In March our swimmers will attend their championship meets – Senior Champs in Orlando for 14-and-older swimmers; Flags (Junior Olympics) in Sarasota for 14-and-under swimmers and Area 3/5 in Sarasota.  For more information about the team, please visit


By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Swimmers’ Sacrifice Acknowledged

While the TBAY Westchase swim team works really hard all year long, they really make sacrifices in the months of November and December.

While other kids are sleeping late every day of their vacation, our swimmers are getting up early and spending two to three hours at practice. The recent colder weather has also posed challenges for swimmers. While Westchase pools are heated, standing on deck in bathing suits and emerging from that warm pool into the cold air take serious commitment.

The TBAY Westchase swim parents and Coach Alex try to reward swimmers’ dedication with a big holiday party in December. This year the team had a brunch after practice with donuts, bagels, egg casseroles, fruit, muffins and a waffle station where the kids could add their own toppings. Luckily, the December Saturday parents chose was a warm day. The kids swam first and then came into the party to consume large quantities of food. After everyone ate, the kids participated in a fun gift exchange.

After winter break, our swimmers went back to their normal school schedules – another way our swimmers show their dedication. Like other kids, TBAY Westchase swimmers have lots of homework, but our swimmers spend two to three hours at the pool on most days of the school week and on Saturdays.

These kids definitely work hard to reach their goals and their work ethic will benefit them in everything else that they do.

For more information about our swim team, visit If yo.u are in need of swimming, running, biking or triathlon gear, you can help the team with fund-raising by clicking through the link on their Web site.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Swimmers Train Hard Over Break

Over the Nov. 23 weekend, the TBAY @ Westchase swim team enjoyed beautiful weather at a meet in St. Petersburg.

First through third place finishes were made by Paige Easton, Joshua Bennett, Kate Rideout, Madeline Rideout, Richard Harris, Maddie Strasen and David Farrant.

While most kids were sleeping in over their Thanksgiving break, our swimmers were working hard at early morning practices. The older group did an hour of dry land training followed by two hours of swimming. They did, however, take Thanksgiving Day off to eat tons of food, rest and spend time with their families.

Over the Dec. 6 weekend seven of the team’s swimmers attended the Gator Invite at the University of Florida in Gainesville. This meet requires very fast qualifying times – in some cases faster than FLAGS (Junior Olympic) cuts, so it is an honor to qualify. Swimmers attending the meet were Kory Kimura, Joshua Bennett, Zachary Bennett, Isabel Minnis, Sadie Jacobson, Paige Easton and Maddie Strasen. The older swimmers had very early warm ups and swims while the 12-and-unders started at noon. Joshua Bennett achieved three new FLAGS (Junior Olympic) cuts and Maddie Strasen made it to finals in the 200 breast stroke. That same weekend, 20 swimmers attended a local meet in St. Petersburg. Elliot Easton (who swam Saturday in St. Pete and Sunday in Gainesville), Margaret Parker and Lindsey Valancius all finished in the top three.

If you would like more information about our team, please visit Pleas.e use the link on our page to click thru to help us with fund-raising.

By Brenda Bennett


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Three TBAY Athletes Swim at State Competitions

Last month’s TBAY article mentioned our swimmers representing their high schools at District and Regional competitions.

At Regionals, the top 24 overall for each region and class then proceeded to States. Three of our swimmers made it all the way to the State competitions – Maddie Strasen, representing Robinson High School, Lauren Sellers, representing the Academy of Holy Names, and Jimmy Dang, representing Jesuit High School. We are so proud of all of our high school swimmers.

Before they swim, our age group and elite swimmers run during their dry land training, which helps with their cardiovascular fitness. To continue to encourage them to run, Coach Alex asked the team to sign up for the Great West Chase 5K or kids’ fun run. On Saturday, Oct. 26, TBAY had over 20 kids, parents and Coach Alex run in the race. Everyone had a great time and I am sure it is something we will do every year.

On Sept. 21-22 the team competed in the SPA meet in St. Petersburg. First through third place finishes were achieved by Joshua Bennett, Elliot Easton, Christopher Quach and Maddie Strasen.
On Oct. 4 the team swam at the Friday Night Races again in St. Petersburg. Joshua Bennett, Dane Christensen, Elise Christensen, Paige Easton and Lauren Sellers all finished races in first through third place.

On Nov. 4 the team swam at the Penny a Yard meet, where families only paid one penny for each yard swam. Swim meets usually cost parents anywhere from $30-60 per child, depending on the meet and the number of events swum. This meet proved very economical, with most parents only paying $20-25 per child. First through third place finishers included Joshua Bennett, Dane Christensen, Elise Christensen, Liam Maloney, Lindsey Marian and Summer Senior.

For more information on our team and events, visit Addit.ionally, you can help the team with fund-raising by simply clicking through the link on our Web page.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Swimmers Participate in Memorial Meet Honoring Former Coach Kelley Allen

Every year the Westchase TBAY team looks forward to the Sweet September meet held at the Countryside branch location in Clearwater.

Last October after Westchase Swim Coach Kelley Allen died, the meet was renamed the KAH2O Kelley Allen Memoriam Swim Meet in his honor. The weekend of Sept. 6, 49 swimmers from the Westchase branch participated in the meet. For many of the newer swimmers, this was their very first meet. Coach Alex Richardson had encouraged them to swim in the meet since it was held in a smaller venue similar to our own Westchase pool with fewer competitors.

A banner that the Westchase Community Association had made and various pictures of Coach Kelley were placed around the pool and within the heat sheet. Coach Sue Curnutte, head coach of the TBAY Clearwater branch and host for the meet, had special T-shirts made for the meet and opened each day by highlighting Allen’s impact on the swimmers in the area. She also asked everyone to join hands for a moment of silence.

Allen’s mother, Jean, and his sister, Lynn, attended the meet on Sunday morning when the 10-and-under swimmers swam. They both commented on how it was so great to see all of the swimmers commemorating Allen. They, however, also felt bad for the younger kids who were disqualified in their events. At an official swim meet, each stroke has to be swum in accordance with USA Swimming rules or the swimmer is disqualified. For example, the hands cannot move below the hips on the breaststroke and the swimmer cannot be completely submerged when they come into the wall for the finish on the backstroke.

First through third place finishes were had by Jacob Key, Kate Rideout, Richard Harris, Dane Christensen, Sadie Jacobson, Joshua Bennett, Kory Kimura, Lauren Sellers, Christopher Quach, Jimmy Dang and Maddie Strassen.

Dane Christensen received the second place highpoint for Boys 6-and-under while Lauren Sellers received the third place high point for 13-14 girls.

The meet was a wonderful tribute to our beloved swim coach, Kelley Allen.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Swimmers Perform Strongly in Championship Meets

The end of summer marks the moment that Westchase swimmers compete in championship meets.

Four Westchase swimmers who achieved FLAG – Florida Age Group Championship (known by swimmers as Junior Olympic) – cuts traveled to Gainesville, Florida to compete at the O’Connell Center at UF from July 18-21. FLAG cuts are very fast and very hard to achieve so it is an accomplishment just to achieve those times.

FLAGs is held only twice per year, in spring for the short-course season and in the summer for the long-course season. Being summer, the recent FLAGs was a long-course meet entailing 50-meter pool lengths.

Westchase FLAG swimmers were Kory Kimura, Lauren Sellers, Zachary Bennett and Joshua Bennett. All four of our swimmers participated in relays, helping our TBAY team secure a third place finish in points against 54 teams.

The FLAGS equivalent for kids older than 14 is Senior Champs, also entailing long-course swims and held this year in Fort Meyers from July 25-28. Two Westchase swimmers achieved qualifying times to compete – Maddie Strassen and Ben Parker.

The last championship meet was in Saint Petersburg on Aug. 2-4. That meet was for swimmers who had not achieved a current FLAGS or Senior Champs cut for events within their age group. At the meet swimmers can swim events that they don’t have cuts for or swim up – swimming against a higher age group – in the senior events if they are not a senior. This meet was short course and entailed 25-yard pool lengths. First through third-place finishes were had by: Kory Kimura, Maddie Strassen, Jacob Key, Elliot Easton and Armando Destrade. Maddie Strassen achieved new Senior Champs cuts in the 500 Free and 200 Breast and new bonus senior champs cuts in the 100 Free, 200 Free and 200 IM. All of our swimmers dropped time and had a great meet.

Swimmers are back in school now, so they have switched back to afternoon practices instead of morning practices. Practices have also returned to the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center pool off Countryway Boulevard.

For more information about the team or upcoming events or to use the link for swim apparel, visit


By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Keeps Swimmers Active Over Summer

The TBAY Westchase team is having a busy summer.

On Father’s Day on Sunday, June 16, the team swam one day of a two-day meet. That particular event is the only meet the team swims every year that holds finals for swimmers who are 10 and under. The top eight swimmers in each event have the option to go to finals that evening and swim the event again. It’s quite exciting for some of the younger swimmers since finals are usually only for senior-aged swimmers. Almost all of our swimmers made it to finals. First through third place finishes were had by Zachary Bennett, Joshua Bennett, Jacob Key and Lauren Sellers. In addition Joshua Bennett achieved a new Florida Age Group Championship (FLAG) cut in the 100 Fly.

On June 21 seven Westchase swimmers who had achieved qualifying times attended an International Meet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex. TBAY swimmers from Westchase, Countryside and Arbor Green branches placed seventh in points against 40 teams from all over the world. Swim teams at the meet were from many places, including Missouri, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Costa Rica, Omaha, Argentina, Georgia and Connecticut. The heat sheet showed swim records that were still in existence for Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin and other Olympic swimmers.

Most of our swimmers made it to finals each night. Zachary Bennett achieved a new FLAG cut in the 50 Fly. Kory Kimura achieved a new FLAG cut in the 100 Back; a first place finish in the 50 Back and the 100 Back; and a second place finish in the 100 Free. Lauren Sellers achieved a new FLAG cut in the 200 Back. Maddie Strassen landed first place in the 200 Breast meanwhile Joshua Bennett achieved new FLAG cuts in the 50 Fly, 50 Free and the 100 Breast.

The following weekend, 18 swimmers attended the TBAY invitational meet in Lakeland. This meet is the only short course meet in the middle of the long course season. The swimmers have been swimming the longer 50-meter length since April, which made for a very enjoyable return to the shorter 25-yard distance. Almost all of our swimmers dropped time and swam well; unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. Saturday’s afternoon session had rain delays and was called off early. The next day, while the 12-and-under swimmers got all of their swims in, the only event the older kids participated in before weather again triggered the meet’s cancellation were the IMs that had been cancelled the previous day. Nevertheless first through third place finishes were had by Dane Christensen and Paige Easton in the 6-and-under events. Meanwhile Jacob Key took third in the 11-12 100 Back and Lindsey Marian placed third in the 13-14 200 Breast.

The swimmers are now preparing for the FLAG championship events, which will be held in Gainesville July 18-21, and Senior Champs, which will be held in Fort Pierce July 25-28.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Attends Swim Across America

On Saturday, May 18, the TBAY Westchase branch attended Tampa Bay’s Swim Across America.

At the Clearwater Beach event the team raised over $23,000 in donations for the Moffitt Cancer Center. One hundred twenty swimmers and volunteers from TBAY participated. Coach Alex and our swimmers swam a half-mile course in the ocean while some of the swim team parents swam the half-mile, one mile and even the 2.4-mile swims. For some swimmers, this was their first experience with open water. The team loved the event and we plan to do it again next year. The next day, Sunday, May 19, 20 swimmers got up very early to swim one day of a meet held in St. Petersburg. Lauren Sellers won first in the women’s 50 breaststroke.

Over the summer, while most kids enjoy sleeping in, the swim team’s older kids have been at the pool for practice from 7-9:30 a.m. The younger group goes to practice from 9-10:30 a.m. Some of the older swimmers are also staying for a swim camp that lasts until 1 p.m. Swimming is a sport that requires extreme dedication.

For more information about the team or if you would like to help the team by purchasing such things as swim suits, goggles and clothing, please visit For p.urchases please follow the link on the site.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Enjoys Kick-Off of Long Course Season

The TBAY Westchase branch loves to attend the annual Winter Haven Rowdy Cup every year.

The April meet is named after Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines and it kicks off long-course season, which runs from April through July (the short-course season runs from August through March). While short-course meet participants swim laps of 25-yards, the length of our Westchase pools, long course meets are swum in 50-meter laps. Olympic and World Championship meets are held in long-course pools.

Some Tampa Bay swim clubs can change their pools to long-course pool by adjusting the lane ropes perpendicularly to the short-course lanes, but our Westchase pools do not have the length to do this. Even though our swimmers cannot train in a long-course pool, they did exceptionally well at the April 19-21meet. TBAY Westchase and TBAY Lakeland came away with the third place trophy out of eighteen teams. Points are scored for swimmers who place in the top eight with nine points awarded for first place, eight points for second place, seven points for third place and so on. First through third-place finishes were had by Lauren Sellers, Kory Kimura and Zachary Bennett. Kory Kimura won the third place highpoint for 10U Boys and Zachary Bennett won the second place highpoint for 11-and-12 Boys. New Florida Age Group Championship cuts were made by Joshua Bennett, Zachary Bennett and Lauren Sellers.

The next weekend the team attended a short-course Land-O-Lakes meet, perfect for our new swimmers and their parents to experience a swim meet for the first time. The older, more experienced racers swam the 500 Free, 400 IM and the 1,650 (mile) on Friday night while the younger, new swimmers swam events on Saturday and Sunday. First through third-place finishes were made by Johnny Dang, Jimmy Dang, Jacob Key, Zachary Bennett, Rafael Borromeo, Tito Borromeo, Nicolas Libreros and Paige Easton. A new Florida Age Group Championship cut was made by Kory Kimura. TBAY took third place again as a team with seven teams competing.

Three meets in a row can definitely tire out a coach and swimmers but the following weekend our swimmers swam well again at a Brandon long-course meet. Since the swims were longer distances, only the experienced swimmers attended. First through third-place finishes were made by Zachary Bennett, Kory Kimura, Lauren Sellers, Preston Smith, Isabel Minnis and Maddie Strassen. New Florida Age Group Championship cuts were made by Joshua Bennett and Zachary Bennett and a new Senior Champ cut was made by Maddie Strassen. Kory Kimura received the third place highpoint for 9-10 Boys and Zachary Bennett took the second place highpoint for 11-12 Boys. For this meet, some heats were identified as “mystery heats” and the heat winner won a stuffed toy peacock. The peacock is significant because the area around the aquatic center is overrun with live ones. The team was pleased to see and hear peacocks walking up the street, perched on nearby homes, in  backyards and in trees. We learned that the peacock or male peafowl is actually the one with the vibrant tail while the female peafowls are just brown and gray. The things you learn at a swim meet!

For more information about our team, please visit


By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Enjoys Spring Picnic

March saw Westchase TBAY swimmers turning in solid times at meets while gathering for a fun picnic.

On March 22-24, 23 members of the TBAY Westchase Swim Team attended the Area 3-5 meet in Sarasota Florida. The meet is for swimmers who haven’t achieved FLAGs cuts in specific events. Our swimmers did very well, with many of them making finals. Top three finishes were had by Lauren Sellers, who placed first in the 500 Free, second in the 13-14 400 IM and third in the 13-14 100 Breast. Lauren also achieved FLAGS cuts in the 500 Free, 400 IM and the 1,000 Free. Maddie Strassen placed first in the girls 15-18 100 Breast, achieving her Senior Champs cut in the 100 Breast.

On Saturday, March 30, the entire team had a fun picnic celebration at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center after the morning’s swim practice. The kids and parents were broken up into teams and completed a scavenger hunt, ending with each team performing a team cheer for Coach Alex. In addition to consuming large amounts of food, the kids participated in fun pool relays and tug-of-war competitions between the boys and girls. There was even a make-your-own sundae bar.

On May 18 the team will participate in Swim Across America, which raises money for and awareness of cancer prevention and treatment through swimming events. Some of our swimmers and Coach Alex will do a half-mile open water swim at Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach. Some of our parents will participate in half mile, one mile and even 2.4 mile swims. We would love to have Westchase residents sponsor us and even cheer us on. The swim starts at 8:30 a.m. To sponsor our team please click here.

For more information about our team, please visit Once .there please use our link, a pass-through on our Web site, to order any swimming or beach gear.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Swims Gasparilla

March saw many Gulf Coast residents flocking to the local beaches.

Yet 28 of our Westchase swimmers headed to Tampa Preparatory Academy for the TBAY Central Gasparilla Races, Feb. 8-10. Last year's meet would have been better left to the Polar Bear Club as temperatures barely left the lower 30s. Fortunately this year our swimmers enjoyed warm sunshine and some blazing fast races − except for early Saturday morning, when the temps were briefly in the 50s.  Many of our swimmers dropped time and showed continued improvement and promise in the pool.

The Gasparilla meet serves as a last chance to secure spots in the upcoming spring FLAGs (Florida Age Group Championships,) as well as the spring Senior Championships.  Both Ben Parker and Joshua Bennett each earned one new qualifying spot for the Senior Champs and FLAGs, respectively.

Six swimmers placed in the top three in one or more races: David James in the 8U, Joshua Bennett and Kory Kimura in the 9-10 age group, Zachary Bennett in the 11-12 age group, Daniel Harris in the 13-14 age group and Ben Parker in the men's 17-and-over.   As swimmers get older, the distances that they must swim get longer and the events more challenging.  At this meet our swimmers challenged themselves with some tough events.  Lauren Sellers swam the 400 IM for eighth place, Ben Parker swam the 200 fly for fourth place, Zachary Bennett swam the mile for first place and Daniel Harris swam the mile for third place. 

Another great accomplishment is Zachary Bennett's second place finish in high points, which is an accumulation of points earned in each event swum throughout the meet. The higher one places in an event, the more points he or she acquires.  

Later in February, Ben Parker then swam in the Senior Champs in Orlando, Florida. He swam well, cutting time in most of his races. Way to go, Ben!

On March 6-9, five of our 14U swimmers who had achieved qualifying times swam at the Florida Age Group Championships (formerly Junior Olympics) in Sarasota. The TBAY Club won third place among more than 50 swim clubs throughout Florida. Swimmers attending the championship meet were Lauren Sellers, Kory Kimura, Jacob Key, Joshua Bennett and Zachary Bennett.

For more information about our swim team, please visit  If you need swim suits, caps, goggles or triathlon gear, you can help our swim team by using the link off of our page or visit


By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY at Westchase Has Busy Winter Months

The TBAY at Westchase swimmers made the most of their cooler months.

The TBAY Westchase team attended the Jingle Bell Meet the weekend of Dec. 14-16 at the Clearwater Long Center. This was a huge meet with 914 athletes, including former Olympian Brooke Bennett and former national team member Erika Erndl. This was our first official meet under our new coach, Alex Richardson, and almost every child on the team swam personal best times.

Among 18 teams TBAY placed fourth in high points. The meet hosted finals for the top eight finishers in each race and five of our Westchase swimmers, Kyle and Kory Kimura, Zachary and Joshua Bennett, Jacob Key and Ben Parker, attended. We were thrilled when our children made finals but it made for a very long day for parents, swimmers and Coach Alex, who spent three 12-hour days on deck! Top three finishes were had by Kory Kimura, Zachary Bennett, Kyle Kimura and David James while two new Junior Olympic/FLAGS cuts were made by Zachary Bennett.

One of the fun things that swimmers do when they visit meets from far away is to exchange swim caps. A Costa Rican team attended and one of their swimmers exchanged a swim cap for one of our TBAY caps.

The meet was televised and replays can still be viewed at


The team also held its annual holiday party in December, when we had a brunch open house for swimmers and their families. The team presented Rachel Sellers, who was this year’s president and treasurer, with a thank you card and gift certificates to recognize the many volunteer hours that she has put into our club. Sellers was part of the initial creation of the booster club six years ago and has been an active member of the board every year since. The club also elected its new board for 2013. As with any organization, the swim team relies heavily on its parent board volunteers to keep the team running efficiently.

On January 12-13, 21 TBAY Westchase swimmers splashed into 2013 at the North Shore pool in St. Petersburg for an exciting short course meet. The swimmers and fans were both welcomed with − and grateful for − clear blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures for a winter meet.

The majority of the swimmers dropped time and exhibited continued improvement under Coach Richardson. Coach Alex moved enthusiastically between the 10-and-under swimmers and the 11-and-up competitors as the meet ran in two pools simultaneously.
Seven of our swimmers placed in the top three in one or more events: Joshua Bennett, Zachary Bennett, David James, Jacob Key, Kory Kimura, Ben Parker and Carolina Ricciardi.

In addition to overall terrific performances, we are so pleased that two of our swimmers, Joshua Bennett and Carolina Ricciardi, achieved new time standards for this spring's Junior Olympics.

The TBAY team continues to train hard in preparation for upcoming meets. The next competition will be in early February when swimmers will have one last opportunity to make Junior Olympic cuts.

By Brenda Bennett and Sara James


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TBay Welcomes Coach Richardson

Our Westchase TBAY Swim Coach Kelley Allen will forever be in our hearts, but this month we also welcome a new coach who was a friend of Kelley.

Coach Alex Richardson, who previously coached at two TBay branches prior to coming to Westchase, knew Coach Allen well and was already a part of our TBay family. The Westchase group has seen him on deck at various meets so he was already a familiar face.
Our swim team kids were heartbroken to lose their beloved coach, but they are a resilient bunch. They banded together because they knew that Coach Kelley would have wanted them to keep swimming. Thankfully, the TBay coaches from four of the other branches and two swim team fathers - Eric Hirsbrunner and Mike Easton who are both accomplished swimmers, donated many hours to coaching the swim team and keeping the swimmers in shape until Coach Alex could get to our pool full time.

In November, our swimmers proudly wrote KAH20 (for Kelley Allen H20) on their backs and shoulders as they competed at the SPA meet in St. Petersburg. Top three finishes were had by Joshua Bennett, Summer Senior, Ava Carter, Casey Knowles and Austin Sellers. Two weeks after that, seven TBay Westchase kids swam in the Gator meet at the University of Florida. This meet required highly competitive qualifying times and included swimmers from across the state. Swimmers who attended the meet were Kory and Kyle Kimura, Jacob Key, Carolina and Bruna Ricciardi and Joshua and Zachary Bennett.

Over Dec. 8 and 9, 16 team members attended the Harry Meisel meet, which is only for swimmers who have not achieved a USA swimming ‘A’/Junior Olympics FLAGS time in that stroke. Top three finishes were had by Carolina Ricciardi, Lindsey Marian, Maddy Strassen, Lauren Sellers, Tiffany Quach, Nicki Quach and Jacob Key. New Junior Olympic/FLAGS cuts were made by Jacob Key and Carolina Ricciardi.

Our swim team is also a family. We are sticking together and welcoming our new coach. For more information about the team and upcoming meets, please visit You also help support the team by using the link on our team Web site.

By Brenda Bennett


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Westchase High School Swimmers Compete in District Meets

The swimmers from TBAY@ Westchase swim club have practically doubled in size since last year.

They currently swim for 12 Tampa Bay high schools. They include (see photo): (top row) Lindsey Marian (Gr. 7-Academy of the Holy Names), Harrison Keane (Soph.-Berkeley Prep), Kent Kimura (Sr.- Jesuit), Ben Parker (Sr.- Jesuit), Austin Sellers (Soph.-Jesuit), Jimmy Dang (Jr.-Jesuit), Kyle Kimura (Jr.-Plant), Michael Melendez (Sr.- Tampa Catholic); (bottom row) Kendall Clarke (Fr.-Alonso), Paige Carter (Fr.-Alonso), Kendal Allen (Fr.-Sickles), Maddie Strasen (Fr.-Robinson), Tiffany Quach (Fr.-Robinson), Kayli Diaz (Soph.-Hillsborough) and Jocelyn Williams (Jr.-Land O Lakes).  Unavailable for the photo are Taylor Anderson (Soph.-Mitchell), Richie Bui (Fr.-Sickles) and Casey Knowles (Fr.-Gaither).
Currently, Taylor Anderson holds the Mitchell H.S. school records in the 50 Free, 100 Free and 100 Breast strokes. Kendall Clarke holds Sickles H.S. school records in the 100 Free and 100 Back. Paige Carter holds the Sickles H.S. school records in the 100 Breast, 200 IM and 200 Free. Kyle Kimura holds the Plant H.S. school record in the 100 Fly.

The swimmers represented their high schools at the 2012 FHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships.  All also competed in their high school district meets, where they could only compete in two individual events. Those meets occurred Oct. 22-27, after deadline for November’s WOW.  The top eight swimmers in each event qualified to compete in the Region meets on Nov. 1-3, 2012.  The top 24 overall swimmers in every region of each class will then qualify to compete in the state meets held Nov. 8-10.

We wish all our high school swimmers the best of luck!

By Rachel Sellers


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TBay Swimmers Shine on High School Teams

In August when Florida kids returned to school, 20 TBAY Westchase swimmers became stars on their high school swim teams.

Our Westchase team members swim for a plethora of public and private schools across Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Many have already proven stand-outs on their teams.
On Sept. 8 many of our TBAY Westchase swimmers helped their high school teams do well at the City Relay Championships. Kent Kimura helped his Jesuit relay team place third in the 400-yard freestyle relay and first in the 200-mixed relay. Austin Sellers and Jimmy Dang led their Jesuit team to a first place finish in the 200-yard medley relay while Ben Parker helped Jesuit take first place in the 500-free relay. Kent Kimura and Jimmy Dang helped their Tigers relay team place second in the 200-yard freestyle while Austin Sellers helped his relay take first in the 200-mixed breaststroke.

Ben Parker helped his 400-IM mixed relay team take first place while Taylor Anderson set a record in the 100- and 50-free for Mitchell High School in Pasco County. Meanwhile Paige Carter broke three records for Alonso High School and recorded personal best times in the 200-free, 100-breast and 200-IM. Paige also helped break three relay records with fellow TBAY swimmer Kendal Clarke.

That same weekend, our younger swimmers competed at the Sweet September meet in Clearwater. The team swims at this meet every year. Although we all love it, the past two years have brought storms and this year was no different. On Friday evening and Saturday the kids swam with just a few stray showers. Strong winds caused one of the tents to get launched into the air with parents and swimmers underneath. Thankfully, no one was hurt. After a short delay, the meet continued. Sunday morning, however, brought massive lightning, thunder and downpours, ultimately cancelling the day’s events. It was still a very successful meet for our swimmers with five of them winning high point trophies. New Junior Olympic cuts were also made by Carolina Ricciardi, Lauren Sellers, Zachary Bennett, Ava Carter and Kory Kimura.

Another amazing thing about all of these swimmers is that they are good students. Many of them are in IB programs and advanced honors classes and they are able to keep their grades up while practicing and swimming hard.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBay Swimmers Feted for Success

In July Westchase swimmers attended the annual awards banquet at the Swim and Tennis Center.  

At the banquet Coach Kelley Allen distributes a number of different awards. Swimmers were given participation trophies based on the number of swim meets they attended during the year.  Coach Kelley also choose swimmers from each of the four practice groups for special awards, including Most Improved, MVP and Coach’s Award. The Coach’s Award is given based on the swimmer demonstrating hard work, competitive drive, sportsmanship, improvement and work ethic. 
Also in July, TBAY Westchase sent 10 swimmers to the Florida Age Group (FLAGS) Championship meet in Gainesville. Known as JO’s to swimmers, the meet is for swimmers who are aged 14 and under and who have qualifying times. Achieving one or more qualifying times for these meets is one of the goals for swimmers, so it is quite an honor to attend.

TBAY as a club placed third overall in points behind the Sarasota Sharks and Bolles.  Ava Carter won second place high point for 10U girls by taking second place in the 50 free and 50 back, first place in the 50 breast, third in the 100 breast, first in the 50 fly, first in the 200 IM and third place in two relay finishes.  Her older sister, Paige Carter, placed seventh in the Girls 13-14 100 breast and fifth in the 200 breast.  Paige and Casey Knowles helped their TBAY Relay team win fourth place in the Girls 13-14 200-meter free relay.   Kory Kimura placed ninth in the 10U Boys 200 free and tenth in the 50 backstroke.

Westchase swimmers who qualified for FLAGS were Lauren Sellers, Kory Kimura, Ava Carter, Paige Carter, Zachary Bennett, Casey Knowles, Kendall Allen, Richie Bui, Ryaan Hatoum, Christopher Quach and Carolina Ricciardi.

On July 26 TBAY Westchase sent five swimmers to the Florida State Long Course Senior Champs competition in Sarasota for swimmers 14 and older.  Olympian Ryan Lochte currently holds six of the meet’s existing records in various strokes, including the 400 IM, for which he won a gold medal in London. 

Competing at the Senior Champs, Kyle Kimura placed tenth in the Boys 15-16 50 free, ninth in the 100 free and tenth in the 200 free.  Austin Sellers landed third place in the Boys 15-16 100 breast and third in the Boys 15-16 200 breast. 

Westchase Swimmers who qualified for FLAGS were Austin Sellers, Kyle Kimura, Kent Kimura, Jocelyn Williams, Ben Parker and Taylor Anderson

Many of our team members will be swimming for their high schools, so look for their names in the newspaper for being stars on their teams.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBay Swimmers and Parents a Dedicated Lot

TBAY Westchase’s swim team continues their very busy summer of long practices and hot weekends at swim meets.

After each meet, swim parents should also be awarded medals for getting up at the crack of dawn, dragging groggy swimmers from their beds and getting the meet’s supplies packed and loaded. These dedicated parents drive to the meets while trying to get their groggy swimmers to eat and drink something. Arriving, they sweat in the hot sun beside a cool, inviting pool that they can’t jump into. After cheering on their child, they reload the car – and do it all over again the next day.

We do love it though!

The weekend of June 15, the club swam at the Lightning Invitational in Largo. First through third places finishes were had by Carolina Ricciardi, Lauren Sellers and Joshua Bennett.

First through eighth place finishers also came back in the late afternoon for finals. Many parents therefore spent our entire weekend at the meet – yet another reason for a swim parent medal!

It goes without saying that Coach Kelley should also be thanked for his boundless energy. For three days straight he runs up and down the pool while cheering for his swimmers from morning until night.

Two weeks later, the team swam a short course meet in Lakeland. The team is in long-course season so this meet is an anomaly and most swimmers do really well after racing the longer, 50-meter courses. First through third place finishes were had by Carolina Ricciardi, Zachary Bennett, Lauren Sellers, Richie Bui, Jacob Key, Lindsay Valancius, Paige Carter and Ava Carter. Lauren Sellers also won the third place high point trophy.

The last meet up before our championship FLAGS and Senior Champs was in St. Petersburg the weekend of July 6. Placing first through third were Joshua Bennett, Zachary Bennett, Elliott Easton, Lauren Sellers, Austin Sellers, Paige Carter, Ava Carter, Taylor Anderson and Casey Knowles. Taking home first place highpoint awards were Ava Carter and Joshua Bennett.

Normally, winning swimmers get medals or trophies, but for this meet, the first and second place winners received rubber ducks. It was fun to see that the kids were more thrilled with the rubber ducks than medals!

Please visit for the swim team’s schedule and more updates.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBay Continues Hard Work Over Summer Break

You might be planning a relaxing summer of sleeping in every day, but the TBAY Westchase swim team is working harder than ever.

The Age Group 1 and Senior swimmers are at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center pool six days a week from 7-10 a.m., with a second afternoon practice from 4-6 p.m. Meanwhile the Age Group 2 kids swim from 10 a.m.-noon, with the novice group swimming from 10-11:30 a.m. That is a lot of swimming!
The team knows that to swim their best, they have to put in the hours at practice. Including Little Flippers, that swim schedule puts Coach Kelley Allen on deck for at least eight hours per day in the very hot sun. You’ll notice that coach has a large container of cold water close at hand through the day as he endures the Florida heat.

During the school year, that hard work has paid off as our swimmers have continued to excel at meets. On May 19-20, the team swam a meet at the St. Petersburg Northshore pool. The meet didn’t designate team winners or high points but first through third place finishes were made by
Carolina Ricciardi, Bruna Ricciardi, Ava Carter, Taylor Anderson, Paige Carter, Joshua Bennett, Zachary Bennett, Kory Kimura, Kyle Kimura and Ryaan Hatoum.

Many residents may not know that over half of our swim team members are Westchase residents whose parents pay homeowners’ association dues plus an additional monthly swim and tennis center fee and swim team dues. Like any other sport, swimming requires a physical and financial commitment. It also demands dedicated parents who will get up early to drive their swimmers to practices and weekend meets.

Team members 14 and under with qualifying cuts are getting ready for the Florida State Age Group Championships (formerly Junior Olympics) July 19-22 in Gainesville while the 15–18-year-old swimmers with qualifying cuts will compete at the Senior Championships July 26-29 in Sarasota. It is an honor just to compete in either of the two events and something our swim team kids strive to achieve.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY @ Westchase Takes First Place at Rowdy Cup

Westchase’s TBAY Swim Team continued their winning streak with two more team trophies at recent meets.

The team is now swimming their long-course season, which means they are swimming 50-meter laps instead of 25-yard laps. The fact that the team still excels in long course meets without access to a long-course training pool speaks highly of our coach, Kelley Allen. Coach Kelley has the kids flip-turning without using the wall to push off. This feels much like a dead stop in the water and is quite difficult. A long-course, 50-meter or 100-meter butterfly can be extremely daunting when you realize it’s about twice the length of our Westchase pool.The weekend of April 20 the team competed in the annual Rowdy Cup meet in Winter Haven. The meet is named after U.S. Olympic Hall of Famer and three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines, now a TV commentator. TBAY competed with 21 other clubs but finished with the first-place trophy. High point awards for first through third place were won by Carolina Ricciardi (8U Girls), Ava Carter (10U Girls), Kory Kimura (10U Boys), Lauren Sellers (11-12 Girls), Paige Carter (13-14 Girls) and Kyle Kimura (Senior Boys).

Two weekends later the team also took the first place trophy at the WFLA Spring Open held in Largo. First- through third-place highpoint awards were won by Carolina Ricciardi (8U Girls), Joshua Bennett (8U Boys), Ava Carter (10U Girls), Kory Kimura (10U Boys), Zachary Bennett (11-12 Boys), Paige Carter (13-14 Girls), Casey Knowles (13-14 Girls) and Kyle Kimura (Senior Boys).

This month the team will compete the weekend of June 15 in Largo and June 30 in Lakeland. For updates please visit our Web site,


By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Celebrates Spring

Every spring the TBAY @ Westchase swim team looks forward to its annual spring picnic.

This year’s picnic was held at Baybridge Park after Saturday swim practice. You would think that our swimmers would be tired after one group had swum for three hours and the other had swum for one and one half hours. That, however, was certainly not the case. The kids played games and held relay races. Soon they began their annual tradition of getting each other sopping wet with water balloons, water guns and buckets of water. Prior to the drenching, the parents made sure the kids ate lots of burgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies, cake and plenty of other goodies. The kids all had a wonderful time having fun together outside of the pool.

During the picnic, Coach Kelley Allen took what, for him, is an unusual position – sitting in a chair in the shade. Most of you have probably seen Coach Kelley around our pool during practice. He doesn’t sit down for four to six hours straight, running up and down the side of the pool while instructing the swimmers.

Two weeks later many of our swimmers participated in the Area 3-5 meet in Sarasota. The meet is for swimmers who have not achieved a current FLAG (JO) or Senior Champ cut in their event. Our swimmers had a great meet. Richie Bui placed third in the Boys 13-14 200-yard breast stroke while Christopher Quach placed second in the Boys 11-12 100-yard backstroke. Carolina Ricciardi had a great meet with many solid finishes in the Girls 8U races, including first in the 25- and 50-yard breast and 50 free; second in the 100 IM; and third in the 25 fly. Lindsey Valancius placed third in 11-12 Girls 100-yard back. Meanwhile new Junior Olympics times were achieved by Kendal Allen in the Girls 13-14 Fly, Richie Bui in the Boys 13-14 100- and 200-yard breast and Christopher Quach in the Boys 11-12 100 back.

If you would like to follow the activities of the swim team, please visit our Web site,


By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Swimmers Take Second at Senior Championships

In late February Westchase’s TBAY branch sent four 15-and-older swimmers to the highly competitive Florida Swimming Senior Championships in Orlando.

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte swam at the meet along with many of Florida’s future Olympic hopefuls. Our four swimmers all did exceptionally well and improved upon their fastest times. At the meet’s end Tampa Bay Aquatics (TBAY) had won second place behind Bolles, with both beating the Sarasota Sharks team, which placed third. If you are familiar with the Bolles School in Jacksonville, you will know what an accomplishment it is to compete with them for top finishes.
Among the Senior Champs, Austin Sellers placed fourth in the boy’s 14-16 200-yard breast stroke and sixth in the 100-yard breast. After the meet, Kyle Kimura, who had helped TBAY win fifth place in two relays, was asked to swim on a relay team at USA Swimming’s Junior Nationals, which will be held in Orlando on March 20–24. This is a huge honor for Kyle and the team is very proud of him.

On March 8-11, Westchase’s TBAY sent ten 14-and-under swimmers to the Florida Age Group Championships (FLAGS), still known in the swimming world as Junior Olympics. At the meet’s close, TBAY had placed third behind the Bolles team and the Sarasota Sharks, who enjoyed a home pool advantage. Ryaan Hatoum placed seventh in the Boys 10U 50 breast. Lauren Sellers kicked TBAY off by knocking nine seconds off her time in a very long and difficult 11-12 Girls 1,000 freestyle. Paige Carter made it to finals for three events, placing sixth in the 13-14 Girls’ 200-yard breast, tenth in the 100-yard breast and sixth, seventh and eighth in three relays.

Younger sister Ava Carter starred in the Girls 10U, placing fifth in the 50 fly, fourth in the 100 IM, sixth in the 50 free, seventh in the 100 free, first in the 50 breast, second in the 100 breast and fourth in a relay. If a swimmer achieves a top-six finish, they earn a spot on the Florida All Star team, so both Carters will swim at the All Star meet in Fort Pierce March 24-25.

Jabari Ramsey, 12, made finals for four 11-12 Boys events and won third place in the 50 fly, fourth in the 100 fly, fifth in the 200 IM and first in the 100 IM, 100 breast and 50 breast. Jabari also helped his relay teams place first and third and second in two additional events. 

Once again our swimmers demonstrated that hard work and focus can help them shine!

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Team Triumphs with Help of High Temps

In the last week of December 2011, TBAY Westchase Swim Coach Kelley Allen made a very wise decision to have our team swim their first meet of 2012 indoors.

He scheduled them for the indoor meet at Clearwater Long Center on Jan. 14-16. There was another outdoor meet that weekend that the team had originally planned to attend. Its format, however, was changed, so that seniors who had achieved Sr. Champs cuts would not be allowed to swim.Florida temperatures in January can vary significantly. On the weekend of Jan. 14-16, the TBAY Westchase team was all thanking Coach Kelley since the temperature had plunged into the 40’s.

Our swimmers were nice and warm in the indoor Long Center and their results showed it. TBAY placed fourth overall out of 31 clubs, which is a huge accomplishment in such a competitive meet. It hosted 20-25 Olympic trial qualifiers, the Canadian National Junior Team, several national age group record holders and many Olympic hopefuls.

High point winners were Carolina Ricciardi (first place, 8U Girls), her twin sister Bruna Ricciardi (second place) and Joshua Bennett (first place, 8U Boys). Many of our swimmers made finals each night. First through third place preliminary and finals victories were achieved by Taylor Anderson, Paige Carter, Ava Carter, Kory Kimura, Casey Knowles, Jabari Ramsey and Lauren Sellers.

Two weeks later when the team swam at an outdoor meet in St. Petersburg, the weather had changed again. It grew much warmer, which also allowed them to excel. First through third place finishes were had by Taylor Anderson, Joshua Bennett, Zachary Bennett, Richie Bui, Ava Carter, Paige Carter, Kayli Diaz, Ryaan Hatoum, Jacob Key, Kory Kimura, Kyle Kimura, Casey Knowles, Lauren Sellers, Austin Sellers and Preston Smith.

On Feb. 23-26, our older swimmers with cut times swam at the Florida Senior Champs meet in Orlando while our 14-and-under swimmers with cut times will race at the FLAGS (formerly Junior Olympics) March 8-11 in Sarasota.

If you would like to see live feeds from some of our meets, go to selec,t then click on Westchase.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Team Proudly Displays Championship Banner

If you have been around the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center pool on Countryway Boulevard, you have seen a new championship banner.

The banner announces that the TBAY @ Westchase swim team is the Silver Champs for the Harry Meisel Championships. That event was held Dec. 10-11, when the team finished second out of 13 swim clubs. This is no surprise given the number of first, second and third place finishes our team had. Top three finishes were achieved by Lauren Sellers, Maddie Strasen, Richie Bui, Christopher Quach, Ben Parker, Tiffany Quach, Austin Sellers, Kayli Diaz, Carolina Ricardi and Zachary Bennett.
After the team put in their hard work racing, they were ready for the fun of their annual Christmas party. Every year the kids look forward to the very messy but tasty donut eating contest, sack relays and Secret Santa gift exchange. As in past years, Coach Kelley even competed with the kids in the donut eating contest. Everyone ended up with a face covered in chocolate and/or powdered sugar. Club members also feasted on a huge spread of food; these kids have to keep their energy up for swimming!

Over the Christmas vacation, while most of their peers were sleeping late and relaxing, the TBAY @ Westchase swimmers were spending two to five hours at the pool practicing. The older group practiced daily from 7-10 a.m., with some returning for a second practice from 4-6 p.m. The younger swimmers practiced from 10-11:30 a.m. or noon each day.

That is dedication to their sport and the reason this team keeps winning!

By Brenda Bennett


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WCA Board Meeting Notes, Jan. 2012: Board Debates Grass Moratorium and Pool Fence

The first meeting of the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors in 2012 kicked off with fireworks. The Jan. 12 session began with the residents forum that saw two voting members, Carlos Quiros (Villas of West Park Village) and Gene McArthur (Woodbay), express concerns about fireworks being set off in the community over the recent holiday season. McArthur said a pick-up truck parked in front of his house on New Year’s Eve and set off canister-style fireworks, which burned a neighbor’s screen enclosure. McArthur described the fireworks as, “…not kids’ stuff but major explosives.”

After WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga suggested that the fireworks issue be added to the February meeting agenda so the matter could be properly addressed, the board agreed.

In new business, a motion was made to roll over the year-end cash available balance of approximately $232,000. The motion was seconded and approved.

Directors then discussed assessment deadlines for homeowners’ late payments. The annual homeowner’s assessment was due by Jan. 1; a notice and $25 late fee will be sent to the owner on Feb. 1. A follow-up letter will be sent out on March 1 advising delinquent owners they will be forwarded to legal counsel if the assessments are not paid by March 15. Those homeowners whose accounts are sent to legal counsel for collection generally see significant legal fees added to their bill.

The Nathan Lafer Award, which was awarded to Harbor Links/The Estates resident Ben Stein for his work in establishing the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive, was presented to his father, Jonathan, since Ben is currently away at college.

During the meeting, directors debated whether there should be a temporary moratorium on dead sod violations due the winter weather. Dyan Pithers commented, “It’s been a mild year in regards to weather so I don’t support it.”

Greens resident Ernie Sylvester, a supervisors on the Community Development District, asked, “Has anything been written in WOW about how to grow grass in winter?” The board agreed that education of residents might be a good idea.

Directors also discussed adding fencing at the West Park Village pool, which would allow access to the pool bathrooms for tennis players. To protect the association against liability, the suggested fence would keep restroom visitors from approaching the closed pool. Currently, those utilizing the tennis courts have to walk to the Baybridge Park restrooms. Brian Ross stated, “I’m not ready to talk about quotes for fencing when we aren’t clear on a master plan.”

The board agreed it was a good idea to put together a two- to five-year master plan for the facilities first.

Alonso High School requested use of the West Park Village tennis courts from 3-5 p.m. each day for their tennis team’s practices. Westchase Operations Manager Kelly Shires expressed support for the proposal and the board approved it.

In other news:

The board voted unanimously to re-appoint Dale Sells to the Modifications Committee.

The last West Park Village water bill was higher than normal and a leak was discovered and repaired.

Association Manager Debbie Sainz announced that Shires and Westchase Swimming Coach Kelley Allen had received Red Cross certifications. This will allow Westchase to become a training center for certifying individuals seeking to become lifeguards at Westchase pools.

Sainz announced there were 400 violation letters sent to residents in December.

A volleyball tournament is planned for February with Westchase villages competing against each other. Interested residents should contact the Swim and Tennis Center at 855-0662.

Zookeeper will be February’s featured Movie in the Park. It will be shown on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at Baybridge Park.

By Lisa Puster


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TBAY Swimmers Finish 2011 Strongly

November and December saw impressive accomplishments among Westchase’s TBAY squad, including one swimmer beating an Olympic champion.

Nov. 5-6 saw TBAY at the CAT Fall Classic at the Long Center in Clearwater. Many of our swimmers came out with top ten finishes. High point medals for second place were awarded to Jabari Ramsey among the 11-12 Boys and Joshua Bennett among the 7-8 Boys.
On Nov. 19-20 our swimmers participated in a meet in St. Petersburg where triple Olympic champion Brooke Bennett raced. Bennett, now 31, is quite a celebrity to the swimmers and she was kind enough to sign autographs while trying to prep for her own races. TBAY swimmer Jabari Ramsey, 12, raced Bennett on the Long Course 50 Fly and out swam her by sub seconds. How many kids can say they swam against a former Olympic swimmer and beat them?

Twins Carolina and Bruna Ricciardi, 8, also had an outstanding meet and finished in first and second place in many of their races. TBAY’s Westchase swimmers achieved top ten rankings in most events in which they swam.

Over Dec. 2-4 16 members of the TBAY Westchase branch attended the Gator Holiday Classic in Gainesville. This meet was highly competitive and included swimmers from Georgia and Florida. It was quite an accomplishment just to swim in the meet since there were qualifying times for each race. Finals were held for those swimmers 11 and older who achieved top finishes. Many of our TBAY swimmers went on to them on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening.

Among them Ava Carter placed second in the 10U 50 breast and 100 breast races out of almost 100 girls racing! Ava’s 200 free relay team also came in third place and she finished sixth in the 50 fly and ninth in the 100 fly and 100 IM. Older sister Paige Carter took ninth place in the 200 breast and made it into finals each night.

Jabari Ramsey placed first in the 11-12 Boys 50 breast and 100 breast, second in the 200 yard breast and 100 IM, fourth in the 200 IM and tenth in the 50 fly. All three Kimuras, Kory, Kyle and Kent, made cuts with Kyle making finals in some events and achieving an eighth place finish on a relay. Siblings Austin and Lauren Sellers also both swam and Lauren achieved another FLAGS (formerly called the Junior Olympics) cut in the 100 IM.

As usual the TBAY @ Westchase swimmers represented their community proudly.

By Brenda Bennett


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Westchase High School Swimmers Shine

The teen swimmers from TBAY @ Westchase swim club are representing several high schools in Tampa Bay this year.

The Westchase high school swimmers are: Taylor Anderson (Freshman, Mitchell H.S. – Class 2A, Region 2), Jimmy Dang (Sophomore, Jesuit H.S. – Class 2A, Region 3), Kayli Diaz (Freshman, Hillsborough H.S. – Class 2A, Region 3), Harrison Keane (Freshman, Berkeley Prep – Class 1A, Region 3), Kent Kimura (Junior, Jesuit H.S. – Class 2A, Region 3), Kyle Kimura (Sophomore, Plant H.S. – Class 3A, Region 2), Michael Melendez (Junior, Tampa Catholic – Class 1A, Region 3), Ben Parker (Junior, Jesuit H.S. – Class 2A, Region 3), Austin Sellers (Freshman, Jesuit H.S. – Class 2A, Region 3) and Jocelyn Williams (Sophomore, Land O’ Lakes H.S. – Class 2A, Region 2). Also competing for her school with the high school swimmers is Lindsey Marian, a sixth grader at the Academy of the Holy Names.

Currently Taylor Anderson holds the Mitchell H.S. record in the 50 Free, 100 Free and 100 Breast. Kyle Kimura holds the Plant H.S. record in the 100 Fly.

The teen swimmers represented their high schools at the 2011-12 FHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships. All of these swimmers competed in their high school district meets and could only compete in two individual events. The district meets occurred Oct. 27-28. The top eight in each event from the district meets qualified to compete in the regional meets on Nov. 4-5. The top 24 overall swimmers in every region of each class qualified to compete in the state meets Nov. 10-12.

In Class 3A, Region 2, Kyle Kimura placed eighth in the 100 Fly. In Class 1A, Region 3, Harrison Keane placed seventh in the 200 Free and 10th in the 500 Free; and Michael Melendez placed 16th in the 200 Free. In Class 2A, Region 2, Taylor Anderson won first place in the 50 Free and 12th in the 100 Breast and Jocelyn Williams placed fifth in the 200 IM and seventh in the 100 Breast. 

In Class 2A, Region 3, Kayli Diaz placed sixth in the 200 Free and 11th in the 100 Fly; Jimmy Dang placed ninth in the 100 Back and 11th in the 200 IM; Kent Kimura placed 10th in the 200 Free and the 500 Free; Ben Parker placed third in the 200 Free and seventh in the 500 Free; and Austin Sellers placed third in the 100 Breast and placed fifth in the 200 IM.

Taylor Anderson, Jocelyn Williams and Austin Sellers advanced to states in their respective classes in individual events. There Taylor Anderson placed 11th in the 50 Free, Jocelyn Williams placed 22nd in the 200 IM; and Austin Sellers placed 16th in the 100 Breast.

Congratulations to our Westchase high school swimmers!

By Rachel Sellers


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Fall Brings Great Times and Pumpkins to TBAY @ Westchase

September and October saw Westchase swimmers bring home championship times, high point awards and pumpkins.

On Sept. 18 some of the TBAY @Westchase swim team’s 11-and-older swimmers took on the 1,000-yard swim at the St. Petersburg invitational meet. All of the swimmers who participated successfully completed the distance.

Three swimmers, Lauren Sellers (11-12 Girls), Jabari Ramsey (11-12 Boys) and Austin Sellers (13-14 Boys), achieved Florida Age Group Championship (FLAGS, formerly Junior Olympics) time cuts and Paige Carter (13-14 Girls) achieved a Senior Champ cut.

While this is exciting news for these racers, it also means they are going to be swimming the event at least once more at the championship competitions. None of these swimmers look forward to swimming fast for that distance, but they enjoy the challenge!

The weekend of Oct. 8-10 the TBAY @ Westchase swimmers and their parents endured a full day of extreme wind followed by a full day of non-stop rain. Nevertheless they continued to excel at the Nike Swim Classic. At the meet Westchase’s team came in second place out of 15 teams. This was a significant accomplishment because Westchase was the only TBAY branch racing. Many of our swimmers placed in the top ten for high points.  To determine high point awards, points are given each time a swimmer races for first place and so on.)

High Points Awards:

Carolina Ricciardi, fifth place (8U)
Joshua Bennett, sixth place (8U)
Ava Carter, third place (10U)
Kory Kimura, third place (10U)
Lauren Sellers, eighth place (11-12)
Zachary Bennett, fourth place (11-12)
Christopher Quach, ninth place (11-12)
Paige Carter, first place (Senior Girls)
Kendal Allen, eighth place (Senior Girls)
Austin Sellers, first place (Senior Boys)
Michael Melendez, ninth place (Senior Boys)

One fun thing about the meet was that swimmers who won their heats were allowed to pick out pumpkins from the pumpkin patch.

The TBAY @ Westchase team took home lots of pumpkins!

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Westchase Swim Team Works Hard and Plays Hard

While TBAY swimmers work hard, they also know how to play hard.

Most TBAY swimmers attend swim practice five to six days per week for one to two-and-a-half hours per day depending upon their practice group. That is a lot of hard work and dedication. Every year in August, the team also has a fun day at Typhoon Lagoon, but of course, it’s on a Sunday to avoid interfering with the longer Saturday morning practices!

The TBAY kids had a great time riding down slides, tubing and relaxing in the lazy river. Swim team kids were not at all intimidated by the huge waves kicked out of the wave machine. You could see TBAY swimmers toward the front of the pool body surfing the six-foot waves effortlessly.

After the fun, the TBAY kids knew when they needed to focus. At our yearly Sweet September meet held Friday-Sunday, Sept. 9-11, our swimmers came out with the first place team trophy and a whole slew of high point trophies. Awards were:

U10 Girls – Ava Carter, First Place
U10 Boys – Zachary Bennett, First Place; Kory Kimura, Second Place
11-12 Boys – Jabari Ramsey, First Place
13-14 Girls – Paige Carter, First Place; Casey Knowles, Second Place; Kendal Allen, Third Place
13-14 Boys – Austin Sellers, Third Place
Senior Girls – Jocelyn Williams, First Place
Senior Boys – Michael Melendez, First Place; Mason Rinehart, Third Place

This team knows how to have fun and race hard! If you would like to see more information about the swim team and upcoming activities, go to and click on Westchase.

By Brenda Bennett


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TBAY Places Third in FLAG Championships

Fifty teams across Florida sent swimmers to the Florida Age Group Championship Long Course meet in Orlando Florida and Tampa Bay Aquatics came away with third place overall.  

The third place finish is a huge accomplishment based on the competitiveness of Florida’s swim clubs. Directly after that meet, Westchase’s Paige Carter was one of 48 swimmers selected for the Southern Zone team.  The top five swimmers in each age group are chosen to swim for the Zone team and it is quite an honor to be selected.  

Carter flew to Cary, North Carolina, where she spent the week training and competing in various races including a three-kilometer open water swim.   Carter had never done an open water swim before but she ended up loving the event.  Carter’s mom, April, her dad, Marc, and sister, Ava, were able to travel to North Carolina to see some of the events.

TBAY continued their high performances at the Area 3 meet July 29-31, where the team garnered many first, second and third place finishes. In addition, swimmers Taylor Anderson, Kory Kimura, Ryaan Hatoum, Austin Sellers and Lauren Sellers achieved new Florida Age Group Championship short course cuts.

For more information onWestchase’s TBAY team, visit then click on Westchase. 

By Brenda Bennett


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