Riverview senior prepares to make waves in return to the pool.
It didn’t take long for Austin Katz to assert himself as one of the state’s most dominant swimmers.
The Riverview High senior and Sarasota Sharks swimmer, who will dive into his final high school season Sept.10 at the Riverview Invitational, is already a four-time individual state champion.
As a sophomore at Cardinal Mooney, Katz won state titles in the 100-yard backstroke and the 200 freestyle. After transferring to Riverview, where his older siblings Taylor and Alex both swam, last year, Katz won state championships in the same events at the Class 4A level.
“I just want to make an impact,” Katz said heading into last year’s state meet.
Less than a year later, Katz is leaving nearly everyone else in his wake. Katz is currently the top ranked swimmer in the state and the 10th best swimmer for the Class of 2017, according to College Swimming.
Now Katz, who has a YMCA Short Course National Championship in the 200 backstroke and a Speedo Junior National Championship in the 200-meter backstroke to his credit, is starting to take the rest of the United States by storm.
Coming off his first U.S. Olympic Team Trials performance where he finished fifth in the 200-meter backstroke, Katz was named to the 2016 Junior Pan Pacific Championship Team.
"It was a good experience overall," Katz said of the Trials. "The whole point was to get used to racing, so I can be on the same level as the top swimmers in the world."
The experience of racing against the nation's best, including 2012 Olympic gold medalist Tyler Clary, helped pave the way for continued success last month.
Katz finished second in his signature event, the 200 backstroke, with a time of 1 minute, 59. 91 seconds to help lead the United States to its fourth consecutive Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championship Aug. 24-27, in Maui.
"We are very proud of Austin," Riverview High and Sarasota Sharks swim coach Brent Arckey, who also served as an assistant coach for Team USA at the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, said. "Anytime you can represent and win a medal for the USA, it is a great accomplishment."
While Katz may not face a lot of stiff competition until later on in the season, any time he hits the pool is sure to be special. Whether he’s racing against neck and neck with a competitor or simply against the clock, Katz is always one stroke ahead of where he should be.
I don’t expect this season to be any different.
The regular season didn’t start off the way the Booker High football team envisioned.
Two weeks into the season, the Tornadoes are still searching for their first win after a combined 100 points in losses to county rivals Riverview (51-20) and Sarasota (49-6) to open the season. The Tornadoes also saw four players ejected during their game against Sarasota after a bench-clearing brawl.
As if that wasn’t enough to overcome, Booker coach Recharde Goodwyn announced his resignation Sept. 6. During his two seasons at the helm, Goodwyn posted a 9-12 record and saw the Tornadoes reach the playoffs in 2014 as the district runner-up before falling to Cape Coral Island Coast in the quarterfinals.
Assistant coach Dumaka Atkins, a Booker alum and social studies teacher at Sarasota High, was named the Tornadoes interim coach for the duration of the season.
A 2004 graduate of Booker, Atkins went on to play for Florida State where he was a defensive tackle for the Seminoles.
"I'm honored to be named the leader of the Booker High School Tornadoes," Atkins said. "I'm blessed, highly favored and appreciative of this opportunity to lead the young men that I grew up idolizing."
With an early season bye week lated for Sept. 9, Booker will have a week off to regroup before returning to action Sept. 16 versus Wauchula Hardee in its first of five district games.