ORLANDO — Swimmers race, racers win and winners find a way to get it done.

Will Harding broke his knee in May, went through surgery, returned and won the boys 100-yard butterfly on Saturday at the Class 1A, Region 2 championships at Lake Highland Prep with a school-record and personal-best time of 52.54.

“My underwater kicks were terrible," Harding said. "I only did two or three. I did it all with my shoulder and upper-body.”

The All Saints senior earned an automatic berth in the FHSAA Class 1A state finals slated for Friday at Sailfish Splashpark Aquatic Center in Stuart. The top finishers in each event win automatic berths and at-large berths are awarded after all the other regions in 1A report times from across the state.

“When I broke my knee, it was like 80 percent of the surface of my knee joint was broken off," Harding said. "They had to screw it back in. I really only started kicking under water in the last couple of weeks. I peaked in training at 3,000 yards and if you ask other swimmers, that is like nothing. Normal stuff is 6,500 to 7,000. I started tapering down in the past few weeks.”

Not completely rehabilitated, Harding jumped in on some relays and 50 free swims to get the mandatory minimum races under his belt to be able to compete at the district competition last week where he finished second to Lake Placid’s Peyton Ming with a 53.65. Ming had out-touched him at 53.05.

“I thought I could get second. I was shaven down, suited and tapered," Harding said. "I went a 53.60 at districts and I thought I could beat the kid who won districts. I saw he was suited up so I suited up and shaved. First is way more than I hoped.”

All Saints head coach Ashley Grogan said Harding is one of those kids who has so much determination and belief that she had no doubt he would qualify for the state finals.

“It is an absolutely a tall order," she said. "The thing I know about Will, is he gives 110 percent every single day. And he hates to lose. That is one of those traits you can’t teach. He is a racer. If he is in a race, he is going to win it.”

All Saints senior William Paul won the boys 200 IM at 1:568.39 to qualify for the state finals. It was his first regional title. He also finished fifth in the 100 breast at 1:01.99 and will have to hope for an at-large berth.

“It was also his best time and school record (200 IM)," Grogan said. "He has been consistent all year and has seen those drops coming. We knew he was going to swim fast today but he can swim the second half of that 200 IM a lot faster than he did. I think he will go 1:56 or 57 at state.”

McKeel picked up a fourth-place swim from Skylar Peterson (5:21.12) in the 500 freestyle and a third-place finish from Emma Foster (1:01.43) in the 100 back. Both swimmers are on the cusp of a state finals berth, which would be the first in the program’s short four-year history.

“We have to play the waiting game with Emma Foster in the backstroke," McKeel head coach Roy Wilshire said. "Third is not an automatic. We will will just have to wait on that South Florida regional. I don’t know the percentage of personal-best times today, but it is very high. We keep moving up.”

All Saints also had boys divers Killian Wright (313.15) and Jacem Rachid (299.60) finish fourth and sixth respectfully in the regional diving meet held at Lake Highland Prep on Friday. Both are eligible for at-large berths for the state meet.

Winter Park Trinity Prep won the girls (407) and boys (346) regional team titles. The McKeel girls were eighth with 113 and the All Saints boys were sixth with 167.50.


Garthwaite finishes 22nd in 100 breast at 4A state finals

STUART – George Jenkins senior Colby Garthwaite showed up a little sick for the state finals on Saturday and finished 22nd during prelims for the 4A 100 breaststroke with a 1:00.71 swim. His seed time was 59.85 coming out of regional this past Saturday.

Garthwaite had finished second at the district meet two weeks ago with a 1:01.65 and was also the City and County meet champion this year in the event.

Bill Kemp can be reached at Bill.Kemp@theledger.com; follow him on Twitter @BillKempSports