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SOUTHERN SECTION 2-A SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS : Depth Carries Mater Dei Girls; Laguna Hills Takes Boys’ Title

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was fitting that the only event the Mater Dei High School girls’ swim team won Saturday was a relay.

This was, after all, Team Anonymous.

But what the Monarchs lacked in individual superiority, they made up for in consistency during the Southern Section 2-A championships.

Four swimmers paced Mater Dei to the title at the Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach. Jennifer Antimarino, Eva Zakrzewski, Katie Ward and Erin Redfern led the way as the Monarchs scored 115 points to finish well ahead of second-place Trabuco Hills (72).

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In the boys’ competition, Laguna Hills set a 2-A record in the 400-yard freestyle relay and edged Walnut for the championship.

“No one really knows about us,” said Redfern, who finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke. “Not even the kids at our school. We get overlooked.”

But the Monarchs aren’t likely to be overlooked anymore.

By the time the last event rolled around, they had clinched the championship. Mater Dei proceeded to win the 400 freestyle relay to increase its margin of victory.

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“We thought we might have enough talent to win the 2-A when the season started,” Monarch co-coach Ron Blanc said. “Then we beat Trabuco Hills (in a dual meet) and we were pretty sure we would win it all.”

Mater Dei finished second to Trabuco Hills at the 2-A meet in 1989, but edged the Mustangs in a dual meet in March. In that meet, the Monarchs were without distance swimmers Antimarino and Zakrzewski. Both were swimming in the junior nationals at the time.

Antimarino and Zakrzewski were a crucial part of the Monarchs’ victory Saturday. Antimarino finished fourth in the 200 and 500 freestyles. Zakrzewski finished fifth in both events.

“We don’t really have any dominant swimmers,” said co-coach Rich Blanc, Ron’s brother. “And we don’t have many club swimmers. What we do have is a good group of girls who work really hard.”

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None more than Redfern, who has been plagued with illness and injury through her four years on the team.

As a sophomore, she missed part of the school year with encephalitis, which causes an inflammation of the brain. She also has been bothered with chronic back trouble.

“It’s been getting worse in the last year,” Redfern said. “But this was my senior year and nothing was going to keep me out of the pool.”

Redfern set a school record in the 100 breaststroke during Friday’s prelims. Besides finishing sixth in the breaststroke Saturday, she also swam a leg for the 200 individual medley relay team that placed fifth.

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“She swims in pain almost all the time,” Rich Blanc said. “But you never hear her complain about it. We’ve tried to get her to skip practice sometimes to rest her back, but she would never hear of it. She is just a hard worker.”

Amy Ward led Trabuco Hills to its second-place finish. Ward, a junior, won the 200 free and finished second in the 500 free.

Natasha Khone of Rancho Alamitos won the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke. She and Jessica Tong of Chadwick (50 and 100 freestyles) were the only girls to win two races.

In the boys’ competition, Laguna Hills trailed Walnut by four points going into the 400 freestyle relay, but got a record-setting performance to win the race and the meet. The Hawks finished with 126 points to 120 for Walnut.

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Chad Carvin led Laguna Hills in the relay as he brought the Hawks from behind. Walnut led through the first 200 yards, but faded and finished fourth.

Carvin swam the last leg of the race and overtook J.P. Lie of Agoura with 50 yards to go.

Laguna Hills finished in a time of 3 minutes 12.54 seconds to break the record of 3:12.95 set in 1988 by Brea-Olinda.

Carvin also won the 200 free and was second in the 500 free. The Hawks had three swimmers score in the 500 free, which helped nullify Walnut’s edge gained by diving points.

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Toby Reclusado finished second in the diving competition Thursday, giving Walnut 13 points going into the swimming events. However, along with Carvin’s finish, Bryan Stoeckel was third and Ian Gilbert seventh in the 500 free to give Laguna Hills 32 points in the event.

“That was our diving,” Laguna Hills Coach Drew Maness said. “We had several swimmers come through with their best efforts to put us in a position to win the meet.”

Shuichi Matsumoto was one of those. Matsumoto was seeded third in the 200 IM but held off Jason Stelle of Agoura down the stretch to win.

Stelle later broke his 2-A record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 50.87. He first broke the event record in 1989 and broke it again in this year’s prelims.

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