Kropp goes out on top

SportsMeg Ryan

LONG BEACH — All's well that ends well, and Andrea Kropp made sure to go out on top in her final CIF championship meet.

After finishing third with her best time of the season, 2 minutes .43 seconds, in the 200-yard individual medley at Friday's CIF Southern Section Division I swimming and diving championships at Belmont Plaza pool in Long Beach, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy senior came back to capture the title in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.23.

"This is just the best feeling ever," said Kropp, who improved her career total of CIF individual titles to four, despite having participated in only three finals meets. "That last 75 turn, I did my pullout and I said, 'I've got to win something.'

"To do it here, this has been my home away from home. …I've had some great swims here and to be able to do this here just seals the deal."

Kropp swam a patient and controlled race in the 100 breaststroke to beat out Mater Dei senior Melissa Bates, who led through the first three quarters.

After turning it on over the final 25 yards to touch the pad .43 seconds ahead of Bates, Kropp looked upward to the timing board and pumped an exultant fist into the air.

"Melissa is definitely a sprinter and for me my best event is the 200 breaststroke," Kropp said. "I'm more of a distance swimmer, so I said, 'You know what, I'm gonna back off and let Melissa do what she does best and then take my time with my strokes, make sure everything's perfect and then come back with a bang.'"

The 200 IM was billed as a showdown between Kropp and Meghan Hawthorne of Chaminade and Kropp actually topped her prelims mark of 2:00.63, which was a season-best.

In the end, though, it was simply Hawthorne's day, and a record-breaking one at that. She eclipsed the old Division I finals record of 1:58.86 by swimming a 1:58.74, fourth-best all-time in the state, two days after being edged by Kropp in the 200 IM prelims.

"We definitely motivated each other," Kropp said of herself and Hawthorne, who have enjoyed a healthy rivalry both in the Mission League and in CIF during their prep careers. "We both were trying to go under two minutes and even though I didn't do it, I feel like I did a good job of helping her get the time that she wanted."

After pulling out to the slimmest of leads down the stretch of the backstroke, Hawthorne actually increased her lead during Kropp's dominant stroke, the breaststroke.

"She's my training partner and it makes it really exciting when we race each other," Hawthorne said. "She's really pushed me in the breaststroke and I said, 'I'm just gonna go for it right now.'

"[Going into the freestyle] I was like, 'OK, I've got this, let's do this, let's get that record.'"

Before the final turn of the freestyle, Hawthorne had widened her lead considerably.

Bates made a surge on the freestyle, as well, touching out Kropp to finish runner-up to Hawthorne in 2:00.33.

"I think it was a really good race," Kropp said. "I think I actually took it out a little too fast with my fly and back and I didn't have enough left for the back half."

Kropp, senior Madeline Talt, and freshmen Emily Balog and Meg Ryan finished sixth in the consolation championship of the 200-medley relay in 1:52.21.

Ryan swam the backstroke leg in 29.20, Kropp swam the breaststroke in 28.79, Balog swam the butterfly in 28.44 and Talt anchored the relay with a 25.78 freestyle split.

Emily Boyd competed in the diving championships for Sacred Heart and placed 12th with a score of 381.05.

University High edged Edison for the Division I crown, 235-233.

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