GLENDALE — No one can accuse the Crescenta Valley High boys' swimming team of resting on its laurels.
After finishing runner-up behind Oaks Christian in the CIF Southern Section Division II Swimming and Diving Championships last season, the Falcons have made no secret of their desire to take one more step up the ladder in 2011.
With even more depth and star power than they had last year, the Falcons are an odds-on favorite to do just that, carrying a host of top-seeded swimmers into the Division II preliminaries at Belmont Plaza pool in Long Beach on Friday where they will aim to push as many as possible through to the finals on Saturday.
"Losing last year to Oaks Christian, [which] was such an outstanding team, there was no shame in that," Falcons boys' Coach Jan Sakonju said. "We were very happy to have runner-up, but of course, you always want to be the champion and so our guys have been pushing really hard since then to put themselves in a position where they could be the top team this year.
"If you look at the points based on the seedings, we're the favorite right now. It's an excellent position to be in. We have to do the best we can and not make any big mistakes."
With three top-seeded relays and a total of five individual events in which they boast the top seed, the Pacific League-champion Falcons would appear to have a great shot to bring nearly everyone back on Saturday and to possibly rack up enough points to win the program's first CIF title since 2000.
Junior Louis Wojciechowski is the top seed in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly and sophomore Harrison Thai is the top seed in the 200-individual medley and 100 backstroke, while sophomore Young Tae Seo, the reigning All-Area Boys' Swimmer of the Year, is seeded No. 1 in the 100 breaststroke. Seo is also the No. 2 seed in the 200 IM behind his teammate Thai, who was moved from the backstroke, which he swam last year at CIF, to the 200 IM.
"I had a meeting with all the guys that qualified because I believe in having input from everybody," Sakonju said. "Of course, I make the final decision, but I like to have input from everybody and we look at different strategies. We decided [to do] that, based on our competition. If we could have avoided putting them in the same events we would have.
"As far as the IM goes, that just logistically worked out the best for the points with a good shot of going No. 1 and No. 2 and taking those points in that event."
Some combination of the Falcons' core trio of swimmers figures to also play a prominent role in the 200-medley, 200-freestyle and/or 400 freestyle.
Crescenta Valley will also look to senior Josh Chi (13th in 50 freestyle, 11th in 100 freestyle), freshman Josh Lo (22nd in 200 IM, 19th in 100 breaststroke), senior Andrew De Jong (18th in 200 IM, 23rd in 100 butterfly) and senior Bassel Takidin (23rd in 100 backstroke) to make it to the finals in their respective events and contribute points to the championship chase.
Oaks Christian is back to defend its title, but another of the Falcons' main competitors from last season, La Cañada, which finished third, is now in Division I.
A portion of Crescenta Valley's Pacific League-champion girls' team will also take part in the Division II prelims, albeit with more modest goals than those of their male counterparts.
"Our philosophy at this point is a little bit different than the [Falcons] boys' in that they're contending for a CIF championship and we're just trying to better our performance from last year," said Falcons girls' co-Coach Pete Loporchio, whose team did not advance any swimmers to the finals last season. "I'm excited that the kids can really have one more shot to excel and better their performances from league."
Freshman Iva Icheva will make her CIF debut, seeded 11th in the 50 freestyle and 12th in the 100 backstroke.
Seniors Adrienne Ingalla and Sabrina Hatzer are seeded 22nd and 29th, respectively, in the 100 breaststroke and senior Mackenzie Hobby is seeded 30th in the 200 IM.
The Falcons' 200-medley relay team of Icheva, Hatzer, Ingalla and Shelby Gregg and the 400-freestyle relay team of Icheva, Ingalla, Hobby and Dakota Davy are seeded 26th and 28th, respectively.
"Iva is really looking to excel," Loporchio said. "I think a good goal for her would be to try to be a double finalist and the other three girls we have, if we could get them in the top 16 it would be great, but I think at this point we're just kind of building."
For Glendale, junior Mickey Mowry is seeded fifth in the 100 butterfly and sixth in the 100 backstroke.
Jennifer Langan, a freshman out of Flintridge Prep, is seeded 33rd in the 100 butterfly and 20th in the 100 freestyle.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy competed in the Division I prelims Wednesday at Belmont plaza, but did not advance any individuals to Friday's finals.
Freshman Katie Altmayer placed 19th in the 200 freestyle in 1 minute 54.82 seconds and 19th in the 100 butterfly in 58.58 and Meg Ryan was 24th in the 100 backstroke in 1:00.44.