It wasn’t the quantity as much as the quality for Harvard-Westlake High in the Southern Section Division III finals Saturday.
Harvard had only five swimmers competing in the finals, but came from behind to take the girls’ team title in the final event at Belmont Plaza.
The Wolverines finished with 122 points, 15 1/2 points ahead of second-place Cerritos and 17 ahead of Chadwick.
Harvard did not lead in the team standings until after the final event. In fact, the Wolverines were stuck in eighth place halfway through the meet.
But heading into the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Wolverines rallied to within 15 points behind Chadwick. The team of Kristin Olson, Emily Dashiell, Helicia Paz and Alexis Larsen won the final event with a time of 3:43.86, .91 ahead of Cerritos, to claim the team title.
This is the first section title for the Wolverines, after three second-place finishes, including last year.
The Wolverines were helped when Chadwick failed to qualify for the relay final, meaning Harvard had only to beat Cerritos to win the title.
“I just told them they had to win,” Wolverine Coach Darlene Bible said. “I wasn’t sure how much we needed but we wanted to get enough.”
Only three Mission League swimmers made the finals in individual events, but Larsen and Michele Hall of Notre Dame made the most of their appearances.
Larsen won the 200-yard individual medley (2:16.00) and the 500 freestyle (4:48.85).
In the 500, Larsen took the lead for good in the first 75 yards and finished 1/100th of a second off the Division III record set by Stacy Shupe of Gahr in 1984.
“I’m annoyed I didn’t get the record but I’m happy with a personal best and I did my best,” Larsen said. “I felt good with 100 to go; I just had to finish it off.”
Larsen, who will attend USC next year, was named the outstanding swimmer of the meet but her highlight was the team victory.
“This has been a great day for our team and what made it special,” Larsen said. “It’s so much more a team sport at this level. We were hoping we’d get the title but didn’t know for sure.”
After three years of frustration in the 50 freestyle, Hall finally won a section title with a personal best of 23.95--a staggering .85 ahead of Delaina Formway of Jurupa Valley.
“I tried to get pumped up beforehand and I was ready to go,” Hall said. “This race is so hard because you have to be perfect, one mistake and you’re done.”
Hall, headed for Clemson, won the 100 breaststroke (1:05.52) in similar fashion, beating Mari Nagasawa of Cerritos by 1.24 seconds. Notre Dame finished 13th with 36 points.
Only one male swimmer from the region got as far as the consolation finals. Eric Chun of Calabasas finished 10th in the 100 butterfly.