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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Swan song ends with a state-ment


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Monica Surrena has been the best female swimmer in Hernando County over the past four years; there's really no debating that much.

Considering the Springstead senior notched the best times in all but one individual event, she left no doubt she deserved to be named Hernando Today Girls Swimmer of the Year for the fourth time.

"It's so special," Surrena said. "I'm just really thankful I got it even a couple times. All four years, it's special to me and I'm glad to have it one last time before I graduate.

"The season went by really quickly. It was so much fun, probably my most fun season. I wanted to do different events this time. Throughout the year I was doing all the events to have more fun and it was really great."

That would explain how she has the finest times in the 200-yard freestyle (2:00.03), 100 free (55.82), 200 IM (2:28.50), 50 free (26.60), 100 butterfly (1:08.90), 500 free (5:38.81) and 100 breaststroke (1:22.96).

Only in the 100 backstroke did someone top her, as Hernando's Paisley Whitaker swam a 1:10.56 at districts to edge Surrena's 1:10.73 recorded during the regular season,

Surrena was anything but bitter about that, genuinely saying she was "so proud of Paisley."

For good measure, Surrena was a part of all three of the county's fastest relays.

That's not the major storyline of Surrena's final prep season, however. Unlike the previous three years, it's also not about how she didn't make it to states.

After being the only county swimmer to reach a regional championship final as a freshman and sophomore, and the only girl as a junior, she finally broke through.

She had been sixth, then fifth, then fourth at regionals in the 200 free. Even while setting a new school record in 2012 (2:01.13), she ended up 21-tenths of a second short of moving on the FHSAA Finals.

Perhaps that made this year so much sweeter. At the Class 2A, Region II Meet, Surrena broke her own 200 free mark and established a new one in the 100 free with her season-best times, placing fifth in both.

A few days later, she learned that she had snagged an at-large state berth in each race, becoming the county's first female state qualifier since 2007.

"I was so thankful," Surrena said. "That's the one thing I wanted. Even though I got the school record, I didn't care. I just really wanted to go to states."

That reaction somewhat belies the more relaxed approach both Surrena and Springstead coach Wayne Withington said they had taken toward making states this season.

Still, Surrena indicated things felt a little looser this time around.

"I went in with a different attitude this year, to have fun," Surrena said. "I think it helped out. It was less stressful. I wasn't nervous going into regionals. I knew what I had to do and I did it."

At states, Surrena had a respectable showing based on her incoming times, finishing 23rd in the 200 (2:01.28) and 24th in the 100 (56.60).

"I wasn't really concerned with my times," Surrena said. "Go as fast as I could and I wasn't going to be upset if I didn't get a faster time. Just getting to be there, I couldn't ask for anything more."

Though Surrena is still currently swimming for Withington with the Hernando County branch of the PVP Piranhas at the local YMCA, states represented the end of her prep run with the coach she had worked with for years on the club level.

In fact, Withington came to the Eagles three years ago when they were in need of a coach on the eve of the season largely due to his relationship with Surrena.

"For both of us, we were very happy with the outcome," Withington said. "Just for all the years we've been together and finishing her last year of high school the way we did; it was very pleasing to both of us."

Surrena has applied to the University of Central Florida, where her brother went to school, and wants to follow both her parents into teaching. She said she might also want to follow in Withington's footsteps and coach.

If she gets into UCF, she hopes to participate in club swimming there.

"I don't want swimming to be over because I don't think it'll ever be over," Surrena said. "I'll always keep swimming."

Few in this county's history did it better, and that's the legacy she leaves behind.

"I wasn't expecting all this publicity and Swimmer of the Year and all this stuff," Surrena said. "But I'm happy to be recognized and I enjoyed the experience and the friends I made."

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By the numbers: Monica Surrena

200-yard freestyle

Season-best time: 2:00.03*^

Districts: 3rd (2:02.87)

Regionals: 5th (2:00.03)

States: 23rd (2:01.28)

100-yard freestyle

Season-best time: 55.82*^

Districts: 3rd (56.36)

Regionals: 5th (55.82)

States: 24th (56.60)

200-yard IM

Season-best time: 2:28.50*

50-yard freestyle

Season-best time: 26.60*

100-yard butterfly

Season-best time: 1:08.90*

500-yard freestyle

Season-best time: 5:38.81*

100-yard backstroke

Season-best time: 1:10.73

100-yard breaststroke

Season-best time: 1:22.96*

* Denotes county's fastest time

^ Denotes school record

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