La Cañada High swimmer Garrett Chin grabs top billing

Like the anchor of a relay, Garrett Chin waited patiently on deck for his opportunity to bring it all home.

The La Cañada High senior swimmer got his chance to take top billing on the Spartans boys' swimming team this season. He excelled in the starring role, snaring a handful of Rio Hondo League titles and was a multiple championship finalist at the CIF Southern Section Division I Swimming and Diving Championships.

These accomplishments led to Chin being voted All-Area Boys' Swimmer of the Year by the sportswriters of the Glendale News-Press, La Cañada Valley Sun and Burbank Leader.

"I'm really happy with how the season ended because I finaled [at CIF] in both my 100 back and 200 IM and the times I went were just what I was hoping for," Chin said.

Chin took his signature event, the 200-yard individual medley, to new heights this season, setting a new league record on May 9 at the league finals at Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena.

His personal-best mark of 51.27 broke former Spartans teammate Brandon Nguyen's 2013 meet record and he also came within 0.17 seconds of breaking the league record in the 100 backstroke, winning the title in a personal-best 51.06. That 2012 record belongs to another one of Chin's former La Cañada teammates and good friends, Bo Mattix.

Spartans Coach Art Lopez said Chin had been in the shadow of his older teammates, Nguyen and Mattix, in the past, but flourished when given the chance to be the team's No. 1 swimmer in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke.

"The competition of the older guys last year and the year before was nice and it definitely motivated me to get better, but I think that now that it was my turn it kind of motivated me a little bit more," Chin said. "I knew I could break these records of these people that had gone before and it just pumped me up."

Adding to his big day at league finals, Chin also teamed with Peter Loakes, Matt Varraveto and Dane Bell to win the championship in the 400-freestyle relay.

"League is probably the biggest meet for high school swimmers because a lot of high school swimmers don't swim club," Chin said. "I try and tell everyone that this is where your fastest swim counts, this is where it matters.

"I really wanted to break the 200 IM record and I'm really happy about that. I went my best times at league, so I couldn't really ask for anything more."

Even with Chin's individual success, it was still a down season for the depth-lacking Spartans in league, where they finished third in the dual-meet standings after dominating the league for years.

But the Spartans' top talent got one more chance to show their skill at the Division II finals May 17 at Riverside Community College, with Chin leading the charge.

"Every part of his season he just kept chipping and chipping and chipping away until it really counted at CIF and he really exploded at CIF with some good times," Lopez said.

Chin qualified for the championship finals in his two individual events and placed seventh in the 200 IM in 1:50.40 and ninth in the 100 backstroke in 50.54.

"I think what makes it special is that it's such a high level of competition," Chin said of his final CIF meet. "The best swimmers from Southern California are there, everyone tapers and everyone is swimming as fast as they can."

Chin also helped the Spartans reach consolation finals in the 400-freestyle relay with Loakes, Varraveto and Bell and the 200-individual medley with Dane Bell, Shane Bell and Loakes.

"Garrett is a fun guy; he's a good leader and he always tried to pump up the team," Loakes said. "I swam well with him this year and it was fun to end the season with him at CIF.

"I saw an improvement in his swims; he stepped up as captain this year. It was his best season yet."

Up next for Chin is a full summer schedule of junior events, including the 2014 Speedo Junior National Championships in Irvine, where he will compete in the 200- and 400 IM and the 200 backstroke and 200 butterfly.

Then it's off to Boston University, to which Chin signed his National Letter of Intent for Swimming in December.

"I am definitely ready," Chin said. "I took a recruiting trip out this winter and I bonded with the team and I'm just ready to move."

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