It had been a decade since the Newport Harbor High boys’ swim team had won the Battle of the Bay swim meet.
But the thing about streaks is that they are made to be broken. When it comes against a rival like Corona del Mar, that made it even sweeter for the Sailors in Thursday’s annual rivalry meet.
And, if you listen to Newport Harbor boys’ swim Coach Ross Sinclair, the Sailors want to start their own long streak after registering a 94-76 win at Newport Harbor High, ending CdM’s nine-year run in the Battle of the Bay.
Newport Harbor’s girls won the Battle of the Bay for the second straight year by an even wider margin, 121-49.
Senior Reece Hemmens won the 50-yard freestyle (21.69 seconds) and the 100 free (48.44) for the Sailors boys, who had the meet clinched with two events still remaining.
Sinclair had to be pleased with his team, which swept the 100 free and 500 free to open up a huge lead. In the 100 free, sophomores Makana Sanita and Charlie Covina touched second and third, respectively, behind Hemmens. Ian Hanson won the 500 free in 4:51.48, followed by senior Cole Brosnan in second and sophomore Jack White in third.
Sinclair named Sanita the swimmer of the meet, after he also placed third in the 200 freestyle in a lifetime-best 1:48.58. It was part of a strong day for the Newport sophomore boys overall.
“Me personally, I want to win everything,” Sinclair said. “These boys have totally bought in, training like it and competing like it. They’re supporting each other during the meets … The junior and senior classes are really fired up, showing some good leadership. The younger guys are feeding off that. I haven’t seen freshman water polo players this excited for swim meets in a long, long time. It’s cool.
“When we win this meet, it’s hopefully the beginning of a long run. I’d like to win for the next 500 years. They win nine years in a row, we want to go 500 years in a row. Today’s the day that starts that streak.”
Newport junior Nick Halphide out-touched CdM senior Ethan Archer to win the 200 freestyle in 1:44.10, and Halphide was second to Archer in the 100 fly, the Sea Kings senior winning in 52.67.
Freshman Tanner Pulice was a double-winner for CdM’s boys, capturing the 200 IM in 1:58.01 and the 100 back in 54.09. Ryan Schildwachter won the 100 breast in 59.86 for CdM, but Newport’s depth was too much.
“Last year I wasn’t even paying attention to the points,” Hemmens said. “They always beat us, so it doesn’t really matter. But this year, I was like, ‘We’re going to beat them.’ It wasn’t even a question. We came in looking at their times, and we were like, ‘We have people that can go faster than that.’ And that’s exactly what happened.”
CdM’s boys won the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay, but Newport went one-two in the 200 free relay.
On the girls’ side, Newport Harbor won every race, including all three relays.
Newport sophomore Ayla Spitz put on a show. Racing a race she had never done in high school, the 100 breaststroke, she went a 1:04.61 to shatter the Sailors’ school record by nearly a second. Carly Geehr had the previous record from the year 2000.
CdM senior Nicole Lin was second in Thursday’s race, in 1:07.04.
“I always like doing it, because it’s a change from what I normally do,” said Spitz, who also won the 50 free. “I was a little scared at first, because I honestly had no idea what I was going to go. I was a little nervous, for sure, but it ended up going pretty well. I knew [the record was 1:05], but I did not expect to get it at a regular meet or anything.
“It was a bit intimidating, because I know [Lin] is really fast. I see her at club, and I know she goes really fast in breaststroke. I thought it was a good race. I’m sure when league and CIF come for her, she’ll go super-fast too.”
One interested observer in that breaststroke was Newport junior Dinny Stevens, who won the 200 free in 1:59.14, as well as the 500 free in 5:13.80.
“Nicole’s very talented, and Ayla’s just an incredible competitor,” Stevens said. “No matter what, she just has tunnel vision and she’s going to do what she needs to do to win. I’m so pleased that she’s on my team now and we can work together to make Newport swim as big a name as we can.
“My freshman year, I was the only one to win an individual event. This year, we won every single one. It shows how much our team has grown together. I’m excited for the coming years, and for league and CIF.”
Ayla’s twin sister Zoe Spitz was another double-winner for the Sailors, taking the 100 fly in 57.59 as well as the 100 back (1:00.90). Freshman Carly Yasko won the 200 IM in 2:16.22, while sophomore Kili Skibby won the 100 free in a lifetime-best 54.06 seconds.
Another water polo player provided a fun moment when junior Kaela Whelan anchored the Sailors “B” relay in the 200 free relay. Skibby, Yasko, Stevens and Annie Rankin won with the “A” relay, but Newport’s Amber Freund, Lissa Westerman, Linnea Kelly and Whelan also touched second, 18 hundredths of a second ahead of CdM’s “A” team.
Whelan, who always seems to be smiling, pumped her fist in the water when she found out.
Newport Harbor may lose the Battle of the Bay nowadays in many sports, but that was certainly not the case Thursday for the boys’ and girls’ swim teams.
“It was kind of a pride thing for us,” Stevens said. “I couldn’t be more proud of everyone.”