Gryphons one of the top teams in Class 2A
By Kyle LoJacono
CITRUS PARK — Katie Cook is not the first from her family to swim for Sickles, but she may be the best.
Her sisters, Megan and Amanda, swam with the Gryphons, but neither won a state title.
“It would be nice to have the bragging rights over my sisters, if I was able to win a state title,” Cook said.
In the past, the successful Sickles boys team demanded attention, but this year the girls are shining in the pool with a 3-1 start. The opening of Steinbrenner has taken many students away and the swim team has not been immune. However, the drop in numbers has not hurt the quality.
“I’m very proud of my girls,” third-year coach Fay Went said. “We have a very small team this year with only 14. I like to say I was able to keep my superstar swimmers, but lost all my depth. We had a lot more girls than normal swimming in meets for the first time ever this year.”
One of those superstars is co-captain Cook, who swims the 50-yard freestyle and 100 free. She won the 50 free and placed second in the 100 free at districts last year, and owns school records in the 50 free (24 .15 seconds) and 100 free (52.02 seconds).
“I swim year-round on a club team, so I’ve been really working to get better for this season,” said Cook, a junior. “We do a lot of dry-land training and we also did a training camp over the summer with my club team. So that has really benefited me.”
Cook’s club team is Tampa Bay Aquatics, which includes numerous state qualifiers and trains in New Tampa.
“Last year, I learned that I can reach states and my goal has always been to be a state champ,” Cook continued. “That has been on my mind all through workouts in the summer. I really want to go far this year, so that has been driving me.”
Other top swimmers for Sickles include seniors Katie Westbrook, Christina Decisneros and co-captain Alex Valder.
The Gryphons lost their first meet to Academy of Holy Names by nine points, but won their next three. That included a one-point victory against Berkley Prep.
“The difference between the first meet and now is tremendous,” Went said. “I wish I could go back and do the Academy meet again. I didn’t really know what events were best for which girls to swim, but now we have a better feel for that and we are getting more experience.”
Went is the success center lab manager at Sickles as well. The center gives students information to help them make decisions about college and careers. It seems like Went’s interest in swimming and seeing young people succeed has rubbed off on her son.
Trey Went, a senior who swims the 50 and 500 free for the boys, has a 4.80 weighted grade-point average and would like to stay in state for college.
“It’s nice to have a mom that can help me with swimming, but we really don’t work together on my swimming,” Trey said. “People might think it’s an advantage for me to have a mom that is a swimming coach, but it isn’t that big a deal.”
Trey reached states last year in the 500, and despite the boys team’s down year he is still working hard to go further this season.
“It kind of stinks that we lost a lot of our good swimmers to Steinbrenner opening, but we are all still working hard,” Trey said. “I’m just trying to go faster in the pool and try to touch the wall before everyone else.”
Sickles girls team’s next big event is Oct. 17 in South Tampa. Many of the girls prep teams in Hillsborough County will be competing at the meet.
“It will be a real test for the team,” Went said. “But I think we are ready.”