Yumi So’s reaction to the news that she had been voted swimmer of the year was one of surprise, partly born of modesty and partly of genuine puzzlement.
“I was kind of shocked because I haven’t been to a lot of high school meets this year,” the Crescenta Valley High junior said. “I’ve been to less than half.”
So’s time with the Falcons this year was fleeting, but when it came to the biggest meets of the Pacific League and CIF Southern Section Division II, So was there and she was unbeatable, leading the sportswriters and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun to unanimously select her as Girls’ Swimmer of the Year.
While training tirelessly for the United States Olympic team trials throughout the high school season, So was there for Crescenta Valley on April 23 in its annual grudge match with rival Arcadia and aided in an 86-84 defeat of the Apaches that clinched the Pacific League dual-meet title.
At the Pacific League championship meet a week later, So set a pair of league records while taking home titles in two events, before capping off her high school season as a double-winner at the CIF Southern Section Division II finals at Belmont Plaza pool in Long Beach on May 10.
“She is fast no matter what event you put her in,” Crescenta Valley Coach Robert Miller said. “She definitely has her events she works on and just the very fact that her goal is to go to Olympic trials kind of speaks for itself.
“It seems a logical choice for her being the [All-]Area Swimmer of the Year.”
So’s specialty is the butterfly and she demonstrated that with 100-yard butterfly titles in the Pacific League, CIF Division II and at the CIF Masters Meet last year.
Last year, she also swam the 200 individual medley at the same meets, a strategy that So said arose from a misunderstanding between her and Miller as to what her strongest events were.
While she was a Pacific League titlist in the 200 IM last season, it was easy to see why So preferred the 100 backstroke when she switched to that event this year.
Coupled with her title defense in the 100 butterfly, her victory in the 100 backstroke at the 2008 Division II final allowed her to top her impressive 2007 CIF performance.
“I was happy that I was doing the events I wanted to swim [at CIF],” said So, who won the 100 butterfly in a meet-record 54.42 seconds and the 100 backstroke in 55.95. “Also, I was more pumped up and focused and ready.”
The highlight of that afternoon was the 100 butterfly, where So took .63 seconds off her 2007 meet-record time.
“I was very, very happy that I could actually break my own record,” So said. “Especially when they announced [me as the record holder] before the race.”
So, who had initially elected not to swim her junior season at Crescenta Valley before changing course, was indispensable to the Falcons’ league-championship bid.
She won two individual events and anchored two winning relay teams in the final dual meet against Arcadia, which shared a co-championship with Crescenta Valley.
The Falcons came close to capturing an outright championship, finishing second to the Apaches at the league final meet, where So won the 100 butterfly in 55.29 and the 100 backstroke in 57.28.
But, for So, the biggest thrill of the season was representing the Falcons against the best of the division at CIF.
“Sara [Sun] is gone now, so it was just me basically,” So said of the 2007 Crescenta Valley graduate and former standout with whom she shared the spotlight her first two years of high school. “We were going against all those Orange County high schools and I wanted to give our little small town a name.”