For La Verne Damien senior Michael Carter, it was the most important meet of the year.
Carter used the Division I finals as his showcase with personal-best times in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle races, setting school records while winning both events in addition to anchoring two relay teams that set school records on May 13 at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach.
"My goal the whole year was to win at CIF, and I thought I had a pretty realistic shot at it," Carter said. "So it's really satisfying that I was able to have a goal, and then actually able to do it too."
Carter accomplished his goal with flash and flair, clocking 45.35 seconds in the 100 freestyle and 1:39.08 in the 200, as well as helping the Spartans win the 200-freestyle relay in 1:24.88 — just shy of the meet record of 1:24.12 by San Marino in 1991 — and place second behind Mission Viejo in the 400-freestyle relay in 3:07.88.
Carter, The Times' boys swimmer of the year, helped Damien finish runner-up to Mission Viejo in the Division I team standings.
"As the season went on, we became more and more sure that we were going to be able to do something pretty special, and Michael was definitely someone we counted on," Coach Andrew Gates said. "If I needed a win for the team, I could have put him in any event and he'd win it."
Carter, in fact, never lost an individual race this season and his performances were key as the Spartans won an invitational at Walnut in March and placed second in the Long Beach Wilson Invitational in April.
Carter, who will swim at Princeton next season, helped the Spartans improve on a third-place finish in the Division I finals in 2004. His victory in the 200 freestyle — the second of 11 events — got them off to a quick start.
"I knew then and there that I was going to have a great meet," Carter said. "My confidence was off the wall, and I just knew — I knew — it was going to be a great day."
It wasn't a bad season either.
Kevin Kuga, Dos Pueblos Jr. 50 freestyle
Only Division I swimmer to finish 50 freestyle in under 21 seconds (a lifetime-best 20.78), he was runner-up to Carter in 100.
Michael Carter, Damien Sr. 100 and 200 freestyle
Swimmer of the year won Division I titles with personal bests of 45.35 seconds and 1:39.08, respectively, for the top times in any division.
Scott Spansail, San Clemente Sr. 500 freestyle, 100 backstroke
Defended Division I title with a time of 4:22.56 in 500 freestyle, nearly five seconds faster than in 2004, and, besides Carter, was division's only other double winner.
Patrick Simpkins, Crespi Jr. 100 butterfly