Alice Gau’s final varsity swimming meet is another indicator of the legacy she will leave behind when she finally departs the pool.
Today, the Nease senior will compete in her fourth FHSAA Swimming and Diving State Championships when the Panthers compete in the Class 3A state meet.
Gau will likely be a member of one of the Panthers two relay teams — the 200 freestyle and the 400 freestyle. Regardless of her contribution, the senior has left an impact.
“She is a great leader for our team,” said Nease swim coach Gustov Calado. “She has a great work ethic, hardly ever misses practice, is very on top of her academic work. She is experienced. She has swam year-round for pretty much her entire life. How she carries herself around the kids, she doesn’t show a lot of emotions, but she is always there for the kids. That’s one of her strengths. She manages her work inside and outside the pool. That’s something we need more and more of as we grow as a team.”
Ryan Rabalais is another Nease senior who has qualified for multiple state meets. Today will be his third time competing in the 100 butterfly in Stuart. Calado believes Rabalais, can top his personal-best of 53.1 in the event to close his varsity career.
Nease’s best chance to bring home a state may rest on the shoulders of an underclassman. Freshman Olivia Peoples is seeded first in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.56) and third in the 200 individual medley.
One person standing between Peoples’ and a gold medal may be Bartram Trail junior Summer Stanfield, who won the event two years ago and is seeded second (2:02.24).
In eight of the last 10 years, a St. Johns County swimmer has returned from the state meet with a gold medal.
Bartram Trail juniors Lilly McCabe (100 butterfly, 2016) and Summer Stanfield (200-yard individual medley, 2015) have already won titles.
Bears sophomore Jack VanDeusen is a heavy favorite to join his teammates. He won a regional title in the 500 freestyle, with a time of 4:29.83, a time fast enough for All-American consideration and more than five seconds faster than second-seeded Andres Laures from Pembroke Pines Charter.
Bartram Trail’s girls may be the reigning state champions, but Creekside has topped the Bears in the district and regional competitions. Creekside swimming and diving coach Tracy Da Costa has stated she believes St. Johns County has a good chance to win a second straight team title.