Welter makes it happen for 'Cats

Published: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 12:34 a.m.
Just one year ago, Buchholz coach Bryan Welter led his team to the Class 3A state championship, earned Florida Dairy Farmers Girls Swimming Coach of the Year honors, and then looked on as most of the girls who made that happen walked across the stage at graduation.
Welter returned though, confident that he could rebuild the Buchholz program as he had done four years earlier, turning a young group loaded with potential and desire, into state contenders.
Behind standout sophomore Zeina Shanata, fellow sophomore Jenne Ballatore and juniors Krystal Kazemba and Carlyn Sander, who all stepped up in place of last year's seniors, the Bobcats cruised to an 8-1 record, a district title and a fourth consecutive top-five finish at state (5th).
"For us to get a top-five finish at state was good because we did lose so much background and talent in those nine seniors," Shanata said. "I was definitely happy with the ending, but now we can start looking to improving next year."
With just five seniors and so much inexperience on this year's team, Buchholz did surpass many of its expectations for this season, but most of the Bobcats still have their best swimming ahead of them, according to Welter.
"I think this team is going to be legitimate next year," Welter said. "This team has the potential to be great, and definitely has the chance to win it all again if they continue to improve. I think realistically, with the amount of talent in the area, that either Buchholz or Gainesville can win a state championship in the near future."
On the boys side, Welter led his squad, also loaded with freshmen and sophomore talent, to a 4-4 mark, a third-place district effort, and a seventh-place state effort.
Perhaps the turning point for the Bobcats this season, however, was a combined (boys and girls) second-place finish to Jacksonville Bolles at the 70-plus team NSPI High School Swimming and Diving Invitational held in Orlando in October.
"The kids were really fired up about that, and it gave them a lot of confidence heading into the end of the season," Welter said.

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