The San Diego Section held its first championship event in 14 months last weekend as the Division I and Division II swim and dive finals unfolded in front of an appreciative gathering of parents at Granite Hills High School.
While social distancing protocols were still in effect and no medals were awarded on site, the general mood from spectators and participants alike was one of appreciation.
The CIF finals had originally been cancelled on March 26 but were reinstated on April 15 after clearance from San Diego County officials. It was a hectic week of preparation to launch a somewhat scaled-down event. Instead of 32 entries per event, the final proposal that passed county scrutiny reduced the field to 24 entries per event.
Regardless of the size of the event (it was still large), it was definitely a day to celebrate for everyone in the swim community.
Section officials noted last weekend’s San Diego CIF championship event was the first section finals event held in the state so far this spring.
“Every team said they were so excited to compete,” Granite Hills coach Cathy Elgas said. “Coaches and swimmers said what a great way to end the season. The swimmers needed this. Most teams in the county did not have a league championship, so this made the season extra special. In East County we had a league championship, so this was just an extension of a great season. We cannot thank CIF enough for not giving up.”
It was a record-breaking weekend with five section records set over the two days (Division II finals last Friday and Division II finals the following day), as well as a slew of league and school records rewritten.
Granite Hills, buoyed by the top girls swim team in East County, fell short of winning the Division I team title but the Eagles still left a few droppings on the competition.
Junior Erin Kluge set a new school record time of 58.35 seconds in placing runner-up in the girls 100-yard backstroke.
Following that she joined forces with freshman Brooke McCoy, sophomore Izzy Cox and sophomore Chloe Morgan to set a new school record in placing second in the girls 4×100 freestyle relay in 3:39.85.
Sophomore Aidan Keane set a new school record in placing third in the boys 100 backstroke finals in 53.04.
Senior Rachel Sapper touched third in the girls 100 breaststroke finals in 1:07.19. Eastlake junior Emily Lundgren set a new section record of 1:00.96 in winning the event.
Granite Hills set a league record in winning the girls 4×50 medley relay in 1:48.53 at the Grossmont Hills League finals on April 16. The Eagles settled for third place at the Division I finals in 1:50.03 behind event winner Torrey Pines (1:46.53) and runner-up Del Norte (1:49.97).
The Eagles’ medley unit consists of McCoy, Sapper, Kluge and Cox.
Additionally, Kluge finished fifth in the girls 100 butterfly finals while Keane finished sixth in the boys 200 IM finals.
In consolation heats (placers seventh through 12th):
Cox sped to a win in the 100 freestyle (54.18) while placing third in the 50 freestyle.
Sapper won the 200 IM consolation heat.
Other consolation heat participants included McCoy in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, junior Cavan Cox the boys 500 freestyle and freshman Braden Felio in the boys 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle.
The Granite Hills team of Keane, senior Andrew Stinnett, Felio and sophomore Riley Thompson competed in the 4×50 medley relay consolation finals while the girls unit of sophomore Olivia Sapper, Rachel Sapper, Morgan and freshman Delaney Fry competed in the 4×50 freestyle relay consolation finals.
The Granite Hills quartet of junior Lucas Johnson, sophomore Vaughan Clark, Stinnett and Cavan Cox qualified to compete in the boys consolation 4×50 freestyle relay event as did the Eagles unit of Keane, Cavan Cox, Thompson and Felio in the boys consolation 4×100 freestyle relay event.
Making a splash
Helix Charter junior Maya Garcia-Hale timed 5:05.43 in the morning’s prelims to earn the No. 1 seed for the 500 free finals. Her main competition seemed to be Bonita Vista junior Paola Castillo, who finished second in the prelims with a time of 5:07.05.
Castillo had logged a personal best time of 1:54.29 in placing sixth in the event’s preceding 200 freestyle finals while Garcia-Hale was third in the 200 free finals in 1:53.83.
The Helix swimmer jumped out to an early lead in the 500 distance, though Castillo steadily moved up to challenge midway through the race. However, Garcia-Hale swiftly answered the challenge with an extra bit of energy on the bell lap to win in 5:00.17.
Castillo finished runner-up in 5:04.08.
“I sprint the whole way in the 500,” the Helix junior explained. “I saw her (Castillo) coming up. The last 50 I sprinted even faster. Everything I had, I left it in the pool.”
Helix senior Jeffrey Keppler, the Grossmont Hills League champion in the boys 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, placed runner-up in the 50 freestyle at the Division I finals in 21.15 behind event champion Christian Johnson (20.93), a senior from Eastlake.
Keppler out-touched the third-place finisher, Canyon Crest Academy junior Xavier Chauvapun (21.53).
Keppler failed to crack the top three place-finishers in the 100 breaststroke final, however.
Valhalla sophomore Rachel Munch finished second in the girls 100 freestyle in 52.87 — less than a second behind event champion Christy Douglas (52.06), a senior from Torrey Pines. Munch came up to challenge late, beating San Marcos senior Summer Mitchell (53.39) at the wall.
Munch also competed in the girls consolation heat of the 100 breaststroke and two consolation relays.
The Valhalla quartet of sophomore Louis Fehrensen, junior Tate Clapham, junior Eli Mohr and junior Jack Forstot qualified to compete in the championship heat of the boys 4×100 freestyle relay event.
Consolation finals notables:
•Helix freshman Riley Hull, the girls 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle champion at the Grossmont Hills League finals, finished second in the consolation heat of both events at the Division I finals. .
•Helix sophomore Cameron Drake competed in the 500 freestyle championship heat and 200 freestyle consolation heat while the medley relay unit of senior Aiden Molter, Keppler, senior Kyle Lemler and Drake competed in the consolation finals.
Also for the Scotties, the unit of Molter, freshman Coen Riggins, Drake and Keppler qualified to compete in the boys 4×100 consolation freestyle relay event.
Garcia-Hale also competed in two consolation heat relays on the exciting day. She joined freshman Linda Eisenhamer, senior Monica Rabin and Hull in the girls 4×50 freestyle heat and Eisenhamer, junior Gabby Morales and Hull in the 4×100 consolation finals.
•Grossmont sophomore Patrick Reynolds, the Grossmont Hills League individual champion in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly, qualified for the Division I consolation finals in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke.
He placed seventh in the 100 backstroke with a time of 55.73 and ninth in the 200 IM with a time of 1:59.89.
The Grossmont unit of junior Kristen Furuholmen, senior Aurelia Willett, junior Erica Neri and sophomore Elizabeth Weeks competed in the consolation heat of the girls 4×50 freestyle relay.
Willett competed in the girls 100 backstroke consolation finals while Weeks competed in the girls consolation 100 breaststroke finals.
Valhalla qualified several swimmers for the consolation finals, including Clapham in the boys 50 freestyle, Fehrensen in the boys 100 freestyle, Mohr in the boys 500 freestyle and freshman Tess Forstot in the girls 100 backstroke.
The VHS boys team of sophomore Alexander Golu, Mohr, Clapham and Forstot won the 4×50 freestyle event in the consolation finals.
Valhalla also entered consolation heat teams in the girls medley relay (Tess Forstot, Munch, sophomore Annika Prado and senior Kaia Jennings), boys medley relay (Mohr, Golu, Forstot and Clapham) and girls 4×100 freestyle relay (Jennings, sophomore Emily Hansen, Tess Forstot and Munch).
Steele Canyon senior Kiara Tenorio qualified to compete in the girls consolation 100 breaststroke heat while the Cougar foursome of senior Brisa Lalich, senior Isabella Gilmore, sophomore Lila Werland and senior Kiana Raagas qualified to compete in the consolation heat of the girls 4×100 relay.
Division II finals
West Hills and Christian high schools carved out a presence in last Friday’s Division II finals.
Senior Camryn Gonzales (57.94) finished third in the championship heat of the girls 100 butterfly while West Hills finished third in the 4×50 freestyle relay championship heat in 1:41.67.
The West Hills relay team consists of junior Ryann Gideon, senior Jordyn Gonzales, senior Morgan Krueger and Camryn Gonzales.
Twin sisters Camryn and Jordyn Gonzales competed in the maximum four events — two individual events and two relay events.
The Wolf Pack unit, boasting the same lineup as in the 4×50 freestyle relay, was seeded fourth in the medley relay.
Camryn Gonzales also competed in the 200 freestyle, earning the No. 12 seed, while Jordyn Gonzales was seeded fourth in the 200 IM and fifth in the100 backstroke.
“They set themselves up for CIF,” West Hills coach James Searles said. “It’s always a pleasure to watch them swim. They’re so strong; they make it look so easy. Their strokes are so refined.”
Christian scored several elite place-finishes in the boys championship field. Sophomore Ian Mullen won the 100 breaststroke event in 58.53 while sophomore Lucas Colombo (1:55.71) and freshman Sam Walker (4:46.88) finished third in the 200 IM and 500 freestyle, respectively.
Christian also finished third in the 4×50 freestyle relay in 1:29.38.
Four new CIF records were set in the Division I finals and one in the Division II finals.
Torrey Pines senior Mia Kragh timed 22.99 to break the existing record of 23.03 in the girls 50 freestyle and came back later in the Division I meet to time 52.22 in the 100 butterfly to snap the previous mark of 52.26 she set as a sophomore in winning the event at the state meet.
San Marcos senior Aiden Simpson timed 1:48.88 to set a new record in the Division I boys 200 IM, eclipsing the old record of 1:49.13 set in 2013.
Eastlake’s Lundgren set the new standard in the girls 100 breaststroke twice in the Division I meet, first in the morning prelims at 1:01.24 and then surpassing that in the evening finals with a time of 1:00.96. The previous record of 1:01.77 by Carlsbad’s Staci Stitts had stood on the books since 1998 — before she was born.
Classical Academy senior Mateo Parker set the new boys 50 freestyle record of 20.15 in last Friday’s Division II meet.