Perhaps the writing on the wall was clearly visible before the event even started. Or more accurately, the writing on the buses.
Row upon row of yellow buses from schools with names that read something like Agua Fria High lined the parking lot of the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach on Friday night, so it was evident that the powers that be in Southern Section 4-A Division swimming were out in force.
When a look through the program turns up powerhouse Orange County entries with individual swimmers named Babashoff, one has to figure the Valley-area teams are in agua caliente.
Knocking off schools such as Mission Viejo? More like mission impossible.
For the 13th consecutive year, Mission Viejo won the boys' 4-A title with 173 points. In the girls' competition, Capistrano Valley placed first with 237 points for its second title in a row. No Valley-area team finished in the top 10.
Valley-area hopes in the championship finals were pinned to six swimmers from Royal, Thousand Oaks and Camarillo.
Camarillo senior Jason Callahan was the only individual winner from the area, taking the 100-yard backstroke in 51.89 seconds, which automatically qualified him for All-American honors.
Callahan also finished second in the boys' 200 freestyle in 1:40.51, a fingernail behind Villa Park's Greg Larson (1:40.05). Callahan qualified for All-American consideration by beating the qualifying mark of 1:43.00.
Sometimes the individual, however, can be plenty intimidating. Take the case of Royal's Stacy Duncan. In the girls' 200 freestyle, she swam in the lane next to Fountain Valley's Debbie Babashoff, the younger sister of Shirley, an Olympic champion swimmer.
Duncan finished a respectable fifth in 1:54.61, while Babashoff cruised to a win in 1:50.91.
An hour later, Duncan was again fifth to Babashoff's first, this time in the 500 freestyle. Duncan, a senior, finished in 4:56.62, more than a second better than her qualifying time but well off the pace set by Babashoff (4:50.74).
"Babashoff, yeah that's a name that could be a little scary," Callahan said.
Camarillo's Lydia Barbie, who also qualified for the finals in two races, finished fifth in the girls' 200 individual medley (2:09.90) and third in the 100 freestyle in 52.89, which qualified her for All-American consideration.
Royal's Kelly Kocur, who swam the fastest qualifying time in the girls' 100 butterfly at 58.39, was even faster in the final at 57.97--but so were three others. Kocur finished fourth.
Chris Doerfler of Thousand Oaks took third in the boys' 100 freestyle in 47.20 and teammate Lauren Drosche was sixth in the girls' 100 backstroke in 1:01.27.