Swimming: Costa Mesa's Connors fast at finals

RIVERSIDE — Tyler Connors' sparkling prep swimming career at Costa Mesa High ended with a bit of frustration Thursday night at the CIF Southern Section Division 3 finals.

Connors was not particularly happy with his 100-yard backstroke, in which he finished sixth in 54.24 seconds. After the race at Riverside City College, he climbed over the bleachers behind the blocks, then slammed his goggles on the ground.

Yet, after a couple of minutes, he cooled off and reflected on what was a great CIF meet for the senior.

Connors also placed fifth in the 200 individual medley, lowering his own school record to finish in 1:57.31. Connors originally set the record at preliminaries Wednesday, breaking the 1:58.54 mark of Chris Duncan from 1985. Duncan now coaches Connors in club with the JCC Waves.

"I dropped down three places [in the backstroke]," said Connors, who still will graduate from Costa Mesa as the school record-holder in the backstroke (53.68). "That's not what I really came here to do today. I'm kind of bummed at that, but I've had a great swimming career, you know? I swam my best time [Wednesday], and broke my own school record even deeper. I just love that.

"I enjoy competitive swimming. It can be frustrating sometimes, like you just saw there, but it's a lot of fun. You don't always have it. Tonight I just didn't have it, but it's all right ... It's been a great CIF for me."

Connors said it was special that Duncan, his club coach, could see him break the school IM record.

"He was talking to me all throughout the year," said Connors, who plans to swim next year at Orange Coast College. "He was like, 'You have to beat my record. I don't want anybody else to break it but you.' It was just great. He watched me in prelims and finals today and watched me break it, and he was just really proud of me. I was stoked about that. It was awesome.

"Before I really started tapering, I honestly wasn't feeling the best that I've ever been. I mean, my legs were kind of feeling heavy. I just was feeling sore, not really feeling the speed. I was a little worried, actually, coming in here, but it ended up all right. I got some really good times and really good places in CIF, so that was fun."

Connors was the lone Costa Mesa swimmer at finals, although diver Kevin Lecours finished fourth in Division 3. Estancia also had one swimmer, sophomore Brandi White, at finals.

White swam in the consolation finals of both the girls' IM and backstroke. She ended up 17th in both the IM (2:22.38), and the back (1:04.47).

Sage Hill sophomore Chris Wan tied for 14th in the boys' 500 free (5:00.31). Lightning freshman Taras Polakoff placed 16th in the boys' 100 backstroke (56.35).

White said she was happy with the finishes in both of her events, though they weren't her best times. She helped the Eagles finish a strong second in the Orange Coast League this year. At league finals, White won the backstroke for the second straight year, not easy when Laguna Beach is in the league.

"We had a pretty good year," White said. "We had a lot more swimmers come out and try out, which was really cool. The team seemed a lot bigger, and we had more support. I think that's what kind of drove us to the success in our league."

White, who is also a standout soccer player for Estancia, said she was excited that the Eagles could get a relay into CIF. Jenna Rutledge, White, Darby Lester and Nikkie Blinn raced in the 200 medley relay at preliminaries on Wednesday.

"They cheered me on, which kind of pumped me up for [prelims]," White said. "It was really cool. A great experience."

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