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SOUTHERN SECTION SWIMMING / DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIPS : O’Brien-Led Irvine Falls Just Short

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Irvine Coach Scott Hinman jokingly said before the Southern Section Division II swimming championships Saturday night at the Belmont Plaza Pool that his girls might have to rough up the Walnut team before the competition started.

“They’re so strong,” Hinman said of Walnut. “We’re going to have to have some luck in if we’re going to win.”

Unfortunately for Hinman, luck didn’t run with the Vaqueros, and there were no fisticuffs. And while Irvine could have won the meet if it finished first--and Walnut was disqualified--in the concluding 400 freestyle relay, it was not to be. Walnut won with 100 points to 88 for Irvine. Woodbridge finished sixth with 53 points.

As Irvine battled for the team title, Wendy O’Brien was in her own fight, winning two individual events with lifetime bests.

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O’Brien, girls’ swimmer of the meet, started the show in the first event, the 200 medley relay. Swimming after Amy Aldinger, Molly Zak and Erin Rollins, she came from behind with a blistering 22.80 seconds on the freestyle anchor to win it in 1:50.84.

The fast relay leg was no fluke. O’Brien, a 15-year-old sophomore, then proved she was the fastest freestyle sprinter in Division II, winning the 50 free in an All-American time of 23.66. She had been seeded third behind Judy Thomas of Walnut and Lonna Stacey of Arcadia.

“My dad said to just go out get it,” O’Brien said. “When I did my flip turn and saw I was a little behind, I just went as hard as I could.”

In the 100 freestyle, only one hundredth of a second separated O’Brien from top-seeded Stacey of Arcadia.

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But by the 75-yard mark, there was no question O’Brien was in control. She won in 51.06, seventh-fastest in the nation this year and an All-American standard.

Junior Giana Johnson of Laguna Hills was also a double winner. In the 200 freestyle, Johnson dropped nearly three seconds off her preliminary time to out-touch Woodbridge’s Dana Nakaya in a personal-best 1:51.58.

“My goggles filled up with water in the third fifty,” Johnson said. “I didn’t even see anybody. I just kept going.”

In the 100 backstroke, Johnson, 16, upset two Walnut girls to win in 57.36, more than two seconds faster than her preliminary.

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In the girls’ 200 individual medley, Woodbridge’s Jaimee Lindstrom repeated her championship in 2:07.38. Nakaya came back from the 200 defeat to win the 500 freestyle in 4:56.65.

In the boys’ competition, won by Los Angeles Loyola with 217 points, Los Alamitos’ Tim Haney was the only Orange County winner with two easy victories.

In the 200 IM, his 1:50.76, an All-American standard, was more than four seconds ahead of Joey Dykstra of West Covina.

In the 500 freestyle, Burbank’s Jon Won had the fastest preliminary time, but it soon became apparent he had been holding back. He dominated the final in 4:29.34, nine seconds ahead of Won.

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