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Lamoureux Helps La Quinta Get Into the Swim

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Catherine Lamoureux came to La Quinta High three years ago from Virginia to start anew.

Lamoureux, who swam competitively for Villanova University, took a new teaching job, and was looking forward to her first day as coach of the swim team. But when she ordered the kids up on the starting blocks, she recently joked, she nearly called the paramedics after watching them dive in.

“It was a catastrophe,” Lamoureux said. “I had no idea that most of the kids didn’t even know how to swim. This is Southern California, I figured everybody could swim.”

Three years later though, Lamoureux is being rewarded. Yes, La Quinta still draws its share of swimmers who can barely dog paddle. And half her team still shows up wearing basketball shorts or swim trunks instead of sleek racing wear, but she has successfully groomed several upperclassmen. And that gives her reason to smile.

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Senior Han Tran and junior Ngoc Quang Nguyen, along with graduated teammates Khoa Vu and Darrell Cheam were the only swimmers from the Garden Grove League to qualify for any event in the Southern Section Division III finals last season. They qualified in the 200-yard individual medley with 1 minute 50.00 seconds, the exact time needed to make the cut.

Both Tran and Nguyen moved to Westminster from Vietnam three years ago. Tran learned how to swim his freshman year, while Nguyen had one year of swimming in Vietnam under his belt. In only three years, both have improved dramatically and they hope to make a mark this season.

Tran wants to qualify in the 100 breaststroke and butterfly, Nguyen in the backstroke. And although their times are still several seconds behind the fastest female swimmers in the county, their goals are not out of reach. The Garden Grove League has recently moved down into the newly formed Division IV, which means they’ll be more equally matched against smaller, less competitive schools.

“We just would like other people to get a chance,” said Tran, who dreams of one day swimming against Olympian Ed Moses. “We are going to try a lot harder this year and maybe even win league.”

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For Lamoureux, just watching the team practice for hours without complaint is why she stays at La Quinta.

“This is a little hidden secret,” Lamoureux said. “These kids remind me of why I started swimming, for the love of it. They aren’t worried about splits, times and cuts. They swim to swim.”

Others to watch:

Scott Baer (Dana Hills), Peter Belden (Newport Harbor), Neil Borzcik (Mater Dei), Mike Cavic (Tustin), Eric Chrisman (Los Alamitos), Jimmy Colon (Saddleback), Kevin Cooney (Saddleback), Brandon Dotts (Fountain Valley), Ryan Gaglio (Marina), Brandon Gladys (Esperanza), Jon Hanna (Los Alamitos), Robby Hegel (Buena Park), Edmund Herlihy (Santa Margarita), Adam Hewko, (Servite), Josh Hower (Western), Jason Hwang (Irvine), Ethan Jessup (Buena Park), Jared Jones (Villa Park), Josh Kashuk (Villa Park), Phillip Kim (Irvine), Greg Lammers (Marina), Ryan Lean (Newport Harbor), Chris Meyer (Canyon), Evan Mitchell (Edison), Trevor Myers (Pacifica), Bryan Neff (Aliso Niguel), Hung Nguyen (Pacifica), Suruk Pattanasinth (Irvine), Aaron Peirsol (Newport Harbor), Kyle Price (Servite), Nate Pucksta (Irvine), Eric Hansen (Sunny Hills), Harrison Radie (Santa Margarita), Eric Rath (El Modena), Jonathan Russell (Santa Margarita), Keith Ryan (Edison), Scott Sandberg (Huntington Beach), Torwai Sethothorn (Mission Viejo), Gonny Shimura (Irvine), Chris Smith (Dana Hills), Mike Sullivan (Huntington Beach), Cody Tague (Edison), Paul Tse (Kennedy), Aaron Vaughan (El Modena), Dave Wagner (Marina), Chris Wilson (Western), Nick Yu (Irvine).

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AT A GLANCE

Boys’ Swimming

* The Proven: Irvine is considered the prohibitive favorite to win it all because of its major talent and depth. Edison lost only two members from last year’s Sunset League championship team. Santa Margarita moves to Division I after winning the Serra League title last year. Villa Park returns Century League MVP Jared Jones and free styler Josh Kashuk. Newport Harbor Coach Brian Kreutzkamp says if all his seniors compete, they should be among the top three teams in the Southern Section.

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* The Promising: Fountain Valley will likely surprise its Sunset League opponents with a number of talented competitors. Los Alamitos also has the talent to compete in the rugged Sunset League.

* Preseason Top 10: 1. Irvine--Favored to defend Southern Section title; 2. Newport Harbor--Olympic silver medalist Aaron Peirsol leads the way; 3. Villa Park--Has strong core of seniors; 4. Mission Viejo--Always a contender with plenty of depth; 5. Santa Margarita--Returns 13 members from last season’s squad; 6. Edison--Deep swim team with three strong divers; 7. Capistrano Valley--Looking to upset Mission Viejo for South Coast League title; 8. Dana Hills--Lots of talent should keep Dolphins in South Coast League title hunt; 9. Fountain Valley--Could battle for Sunset Leaegeu title; 10. El Toro--One of four South Coast teams with title hopes.

* Key Dates: Thursday-Saturday, Capistrano Valley Relays; March 22, 24, CIF boys’ relays; March 27-April 1, U.S. Spring Nationals; March 29-31, Foothill Swim Games; May 9-11, Southern Section preliminaries; May 10-12, Southern Section finals.

* League Favorites: Century--Villa Park; Empire--El Dorado; Freeway--Sunny Hills; Garden Grove--Pacifica; Golden West--Tustin; Orange--Brea Olinda; Pacific Coast--Corona del Mar; Sea View--Irvine; Serra--Santa Margarita; South Coast--Mission Viejo; Sunset--Edison.

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* Fast Fact: The Southern Section has expanded swimming from three divisions to four, with the Garden Grove and Orange leagues moving to Division IV and Santa Margarita to Division I.


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