Granite Hills swimmers, fast off the blocks, aim to make a splash


Photos by Phillip Brents Granite Hills’ Braden Felio collected four medals at last year’s Grossmont Hills League swim finals, including two gold medals, as a freshman

The Granite Hills High School swim team will host the Ben Hedberg Invitational this Saturday at the eastern El Cajon school’s pool. The large, competitive field of 22 teams will present an early season showcase for the sport. As well as for the host Eagles. Granite Hills’ girls team captured both the Grossmont Hills League regular season and championship meet team titles, taking first-place honors in six of the 11 contested swim events at the league finals.
The Eagles boys squad captured last year’s Grossmont Hills League regular season championship before placing third behind team champion Helix and runner-up Grossmont at an over the-top league finals meet during which several league and school records were broken.
Granite Hills was loaded with underclassmen talent last season as then sophomore Izzy Cox and freshman Braden Felio each won four medals. Cox proved to be the meet’s golden girl with four gold medals in as many events. She won the 50 freestyle sprint in 24.86 seconds and 100 freestyle in 53.63 while helping her teammates win two relay events, setting a new league record in the 200 medley relay (1:48.53) along with freshman Brooke McCoy (backstroke), senior Rachel Sapper (breaststroke) and junior Erin Kluge (butterfly). Cox and company also won the meet-ending 400 freestyle relay in 3:42.01.
Cox needed every bit of energy to win her two individual events in photo finishes against Grossmont junior Kristen Furuholmen (0.31 second in the 50 freestyle) and Grossmont senior Laney Hall (by 0.55 second in the 100 freestyle). Felio’s four medals at the meet included two gold, one silver and one bronze. His gold medals came in the 200 medley relay (1:40.74) and 200 freestyle (1:47.30). He captured the silver medal in the 400 freestyle relay (3:21.03) and the bronze medal in the 100 butterfly (55.87).
Not to be overlooked, Aidan Keane won three gold medals as a sophomore: 200 medley relay, 500 freestyle (4:48.77) and 100 backstroke (53.62). He missed a potential fourth gold medal with a runner-up finish in the 400 freestyle relay. Keane recorded a school record time in winning the 500 freestyle event ahead of Valhalla junior Eli Mohr (4:49.11). The Eagle swimmer did not have a close call in the backstroke, his specialty event, winning by more than five seconds.
Three of the swimmers are back from Granite Hills’ league record 200-yard medley relay: McCoy, Kluge and Cox. Kluge captured three gold medals at last year’s finals, winning the 100 backstroke in a school record 58.76 while swimming legs on both victorious relay teams. The Lady Eagle was denied a possible fourth gold medal by 0.03 seconds in a furious runner-up finish to West Hills senior Camryn Gonzales in the 100 butterfly event.
Fast forward
Granite Hills opened the 2022 league season by defeating Helix Charter in both gender fields (114-71 in the girls meet and 116- 67 in the boys meet). The Lady Eagles captured first-place finishes in 11 of the 12 events in their March 17 dual meet against West Hills while the GHHS boys team claimed a clean sweep with 12 first-place finishes.
Cox won four events: 200 freestyle (2:00.95) and 100 breaststroke (1:13.14) in individual events and the 4×50 freestyle (1:48.62) and 4×100 freestyle (3:48.32) in relay events. Kluge also won four events: 200 individual medley (2:15.08) and 100 backstroke (1:01.4) as well as the 200 medley relay (1:59.5) and 400 freestyle relay. McCoy won three events: 50 freestyle (25.96) as well the medley and 400 freestyle relays. Sophomore Delaney Fry won three events: 100 freestyle (58.35) and both freestyle relay events. Junior Chloe Morgan won the 500 freestyle (5:38.41) to round out Granite Hills’ individual first place event winners in the swim portion of the meet.
The Lady Eagles placed the top four positions in the girls dive card, paced by freshmen Jordan Sterner with 193.5 points in first place and classmate Addi Griffiths with 151.45 points in second place.
The victorious medley relay unit this year was comprised of McCoy, Kluge, junior Olivia Sapper and sophomore Ava Eaton while the 200 freestyle relay unit included Fry, sophomore Carly Seiter, Eaton and Cox. The 400 freestyle relay foursome featured Kluge, Fry, McCoy and Cox, which could be a monstrous paring this year.
West Hills’ lone first-place touch in the meet came courtesy of freshman Maggie Cline in the girls 100 butterfly (1:03.99) over Olivia Sapper (1:05.01).
On the boys side, individual standouts included senior Cavan Cox with wins in the 200 freestyle (1:55.40) and 100 butterfly (59.90), Felio with wins in the individual medley (2:04.84) and 100 freestyle (50.58) and Keane with wins in the 50 freestyle (23.78) and breaststroke (1:07.66). Freshman Sean Keane emerged with a 5:43.84 win in the marathon 500 freestyle while junior Vaughan Clark won the 100 backstroke in 1:03.34.
The winning 200 medley relay included junior Joseph Alvernaz, Felio, Clark and senior Lucas Johnson in 1:50.15. The 4×50 freestyle relay unit was made up of junior Carter Allen, Cavan Cox, Sean Keane and sophomore Liam Keller in 1:43.40. The 4×100 freestyle unit featured senior Branson Riggs, Clark, sophomore Teagan Pennings and Felio in 3:39.13.
Coach Cathy Elgas said Granite’s boys and girls teams “should do well again,” but cautioned against being too overconfident.
“Each team in the league has a few good swimmers, so it will come down to depth for the league titles,” she said.
“We graduated breaststroker Rachel Sapper last year, which hurts our top relay, but should still do great,” Elgas opined. “We picked up a lot of divers this year from our CIF and state champion cheer team. “Erin Kluge is a senior and should do well again. Izzy Cox is a junior and looking to swim events she didn’t swim last year, showing her versatility.
“For the boys, junior Aidan Keane and sophomore Braden Felio will do great again. They are versatile and we can move them anywhere. The best part about our teams is the depth. Teams win by depth and not the superstars. Without depth, you won’t win meets.”
The Eagles competed in last weekend’s Mt. SAC High School Winterfest Championships. Elgas said the Granite Hills teams turned in some “amazing swims.”
Aidan Keane broke his own school in the 100 backstroke in the prelims then again in the finals with a time of 52.70. Aidan Keane, Kluge, Izzy Cox, Felio and McCoy all made the A finals in their events.
“Almost everyone else made a consolation final,” Elgas said. “It’s the fastest high school meet around. Seniors who are committed to Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA and other big swim colleges swam
in this meet.