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Strange Rituals, Sleek Sophomores Send Calabasas to Victory in the Preliminaries

Times Staff Writer

Before any members of the Calabasas High boys swim team entered the water at the 2-A Southern Section swimming and diving preliminaries at East Los Angeles College on Thursday, they reached for a gallon jug filled with Calabasas pool water and baptized themselves.

“We do it before every event,” said Jack Moriarty, co-captain of the Coyotes. “We take a jug of Calabasas pool water, and each team member takes a handful of it before his event and pours it over his head.”

This aquatic ritual is a tamer team sacrament than last year’s water rite.

“All the boys on the team shaved their heads bald last year,” Moriarty said. “We wanted to show team unity--and to look mean.”

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This year, like last year, the Calabasas boys 200-yard medley relay team accomplished its goals. The team of Moriarty, Erik Weitz, Kenji Bek and Craig Catton took first place in the event with a time of 1:42.21, breaking the 3-year-old school record of 1:43.67 and earning a No. 1 ranking in the finals this weekend.

“We planned on breaking into the top three,” Catton said. “But not actually winning it.”

For Catton, a senior who has qualified for the Southern Section finals four consecutive years, winning the 200-yard medley meant less than breaking the school record, which his older brother Mark had helped to set in 1982. One of Catton’s goals for his senior year was to erase at least one of his brother’s many school records.

“I really wanted to beat my brother’s records,” he said. “And we did it today. It was a great way to end my senior year.”

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In fact, the 11-member Coyotes team was composed primarily of seniors hoping to end their high school years with a splash. But a couple of sophomores made the seniors look all wet.

Bek and Weitz, two sophomores who also competed in the 200-yard medley relay, both earned berths in the finals. In the 200-yard freestyle, Bek captured second place with a time of 1:45.66, just behind South Hills’ Ken Lamont’s 1:45.25. Five events later, in the 100-yard butterfly, Bek came in fifth with a 54.03 mark.

In the 200-yard individual medley, Weitz placed fourth with a time of 2:00.82, a few lengths behind leader Jeffrey Tend of Gahr, who clocked a sleek 1:55.51. In the 100-yard backstroke, Weitz came in third with 56.32.

“Those two guys are serious about their swimming,” Moriarty said. “I mean, they’re only sophomores, but they’re so good already. They beat the seniors all the time.”

Indeed. This year, Bek took first place in the Frontier League in the 100-yard butterfly, the 200-yard freestyle and the 4 x 100 relay.

Weitz placed first in the Frontier League in the grueling 500-yard freestyle and 4 x 100 relay, and took second-place honors in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke.

Both Bek and Weitz have unusual swimming styles. Bek glides through the water with elbows high, giving the false appearance that he is progressing awkwardly and slowly. Weitz, with his long limbs and lanky body, moves through the water like a snake, in smooth rhythmic patterns.

For the Calabasas swim team, the pattern of Frontier League and Southern Section championship remains unbroken. It has captured both every year since 1980.

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“The baptism helps,” Moriarty said. “It really does.”


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