Rivalry. Good willed, deep-seated animosity permeates the chlorine-scented air. Freshmen and seniors alike swagger their way to the other end of the pool deck, trying their best to serve the most intimidating looks to the opposing team. Years of older siblings, parents, teachers, and coaches conditioning these bright young athletes have prepared them for this moment: the moment they assert their superiority over the enemy, the moment they become the victors.
In Duval County, Florida, the rivalry of Stanton College Prep vs. Paxon School for the Advanced Studies is perhaps one of the most entertaining in the area. The friendly competition amongst “smart schools” of northern Florida can be traced back over 20 years. Students from all over Jacksonville sit back, some with a bag of popcorn, and refresh their phones while Eagles and Blue Devils take to Twitter for the main event known as “Stanton vs. Paxon Hate Week”. Some refer to it as “Paxon vs. Stanton Hate Week”. It all depends on which shade of blue you prefer to wear. At their annual football matchup, the prestigious academic magnet schools craft clever insults and comebacks to put on posters or hurl at each other on the sidelines. Meanwhile, both teams’ quarterbacks struggle to hurl the ball to their intended receivers.
Often overlooked but very much worth mentioning: Stanton and Paxon Swimming and Diving. What these schools lack on the football field, they more than makeup for in the pool. Stanton and Paxon swimming have consistently produced FHSAA 2A State swimming powerhouses. Since the days of Florida Swim Network’s own Ian Apple, Paxon has not been short on talent. The back-to-back 50 Y Free state champion and Florida State Swimming graduate has thus far been succeeded by 3 prospective young athletes: Malachi Daniels, a senior and sprinting force to be reckoned with; Tyler Watson, versatile junior and 5-time A-finalist in 2A; and Kyle Casiple, up-and-coming sophomore, fearless flyer, and freshman state qualifier. As for the girls team, senior Kyndall Smith was an A-finalist in the 100 Y Free (4th, 53.44) and won the 50 consolation final (24.89) at last year’s meet. After a strong junior year performance, Smith is sure to end her high school swimming career with a bang!
Stanton also has had a steady flow of solid athletes over the course of the last several years. SMU’s David Lee and LIU Brooklyn’s Raphael Hardan are both NCAA Division 1 Stanton swimming alumni. Currently enrolled, seniors Drew Johnson and Callie Sellers aim to draw their “Stamberjax” (self-designated nickname for the group of kids who swim for both the year-round club team Episcopal Amberjax and Stanton) years to a close with a grand finale. Sellers has qualified for states every year she has attended Stanton. She finished 3rd in the 100 Y Breaststroke (1.06.50) last fall. Johnson, also a frequent swimmer at 2A States, individually qualified for the 100 Y Free last year by the skin of his teeth after a rough regional meet. Impressively enough, he still managed to land himself a spot in the A-final and finish 8th overall (48.63). As for Stanton’s “up-and-coming” sophomore, William “Billy” Jones is definitely one to watch. Jones went to states as a member of the 200 and 400 Y Freestyle Relays as a freshman and could possibly make a reappearance in November.
With tensions high and bragging rights at stake, the annual Stanton vs. Paxon meet was held last Thursday at Paxon’s pool. The water housed Eagle pitted against Blue Devil, and Blue Devil against Eagle. Meanwhile, on dry land, the deck and chain-linked fence surrounding the pool served as the location and backdrop of a rivalry photoshoot. Friends from the same middle schools and club teams were all smiles for their iPhone and Android cameras; That is until they heard the sound of the starter’s whistleblowing. Once the whistle blew, it was go time. Stanton beat Paxon! Paxon beat Stanton! The competition was in full swing.
Rivalry tends to bring out the best and the worst in people. As for this year’s edition of the Paxon vs. Stanton rivalry, who was the best and who was the worst? As for the Week 4’s list of Born To Swim FHSAA Swimmers, they fall into the former category.
Kyndall Smith: As expected, Kyndall Smith brought her A-Game to her senior night and last rivalry meet. She convincingly won both of her individual events. Smith popped a 59.4 in the 100 Y Free (from a push) and a 27.3 in the 50 Y Free (also from a push).
Tyler Watson: Team spirit enthusiast, Tyler Watson, was more than eager to dominate the competition and bring home as much glory to Paxon as he could. He also won both of his individual events by a large margin. Watson swam the 200 Y IM with a time of 2:03.00 and the 500 Y Free in 4:54.60 (both from a push).
Kyle Casiple: Kyle Casiple, like his teammates, also had impressive swims that evening. He won the 100 Y Fly with a time of 57.01 from a push and was just barely out-touched by William “Billy” Jones in the 100 Y Back (Casiple’s time was 1.00.14, from a push as well).
Callie Sellers: Callie Sellers also did extremely well in both of her events. With a noteworthy time of 1:14.97 (from a push), Sellers won the 100 Y Breaststroke by almost 6 seconds! Before that outstanding swim, she finished 1st the 200 Y IM with a solid time of 2:28.1 (again, from a push).
Drew Johnson: To conclude his final regular high school season, Drew Johnson took both the 100 and 200 Y Free. His 100 Y Free time was 50.7, and his 200 Y Free time was 1:54.5 (both times from a push).
Other notable swims: Although they may not have made the top 5 list, William Jones and Malachi Daniels too had memorable swims. Jones’s winning 100 Y Backstroke time (from a push) was 59.4, and Daniels won the 50 Y Free with a time of 24.2 (also from a push).
While both teams had great performances all around, Stanton came out on top in 2017. As for 2018, will Stanton be able to defend the crown, or will Paxon have a chance to claim it and be the ones wearing it this time next year? No matter the results, fans and fun and smack talk are what make rivalries so addicting and enjoyable to be a part of—especially Stanton vs. Paxon!
All Born To Swim Winners should contact Florida Swim Network via Direct Message on any of our social media accounts to receive an award for your accomplishments.
Written by Payton Titus
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