Uni takes crown from CdM

CORONA DEL MAR — Tom Norton graduated from Corona del Mar High in 1993, and he’s even not afraid to give the correct year.

“You can put ‘2003' if you want,” he joked.

Norton was in a good mood early Friday evening on the pool deck at his alma mater, and it was easy to see why. He and his University High boys’ swim team came to CdM and took something that had been in the Sea Kings’ possession the last five years — the league title.

The Trojans, helped by a strong showing in the preliminaries on Wednesday, had enough to dethrone the Sea Kings. University finished first with 493 points, followed by CdM with 457.

Led by Brynne Wong, CdM’s girls set four school records and finished third at league finals, behind Uni and Irvine. However, the Sea Kings officially finished tied for second in league due to beating Irvine in the teams’ dual meet this year.

University’s boys took a big lead early in the meet, taking four of the top five spots in the 200-yard individual medley.

“We had four solid guys in a lot of races,” Norton said. “I’d say what helped us out was the guys went out and did what they had to do in the prelims, to set us up for the finals. Getting three guys in the top eight was key. A lot of times they say you win it in the prelims, and that’s what our boys did. Our third and fourth boys’ swimmers in each event stepped it up and did what they had to do. Everyone swam great.

“It’s a great feeling, especially competing with [CdM Coach] Barry [O’Dea]. We sit next to each other the whole time and crack jokes, give each other a hard time. He was stoked. He shook my hand and said, ‘Hey man, good job with the guys, you’ve really stepped up the last two years.’ That meant a lot to me, coming from him.”

Last year, CdM edged Uni at league finals by just 1.5 points. O’Dea said midway through Friday’s meet that if his boys had swam at prelims like they did at finals, it would have been a different story. But the Sea Kings still did have several solid swims.

Columbia-bound senior Jared Namba set a meet record in the 100 backstroke, touching in a lifetime-best 49.40 seconds and lowering his own school record. The time is fourth in Orange County history.

“It was definitely a big shocker,” Namba said. “I didn’t expect to break 50 at all at this meet.”

He finished second in the 100 fly to Michael Chang of Northwood, but Namba also lowered his own school-record time to 49.68. He also swam leadoff on the 200 medley relay, also featuring Tyler Lin, Christian Garkani and Blake Motal. The quartet won the race, touching in a meet-record 1:34.17. Then, in the meet’s final race, Ari Marks, Reid Chase, Liam Karas and Namba won the 400 free relay in 3:09.63. Namba swam the anchor in a sizzling 45.65 seconds, which is his fastest ever.

“The guys at the end of the lane got me all pumped up and made me go faster,” said Marks, a senior who ended with a win in his last-ever race in his home pool. “I just wanted to beat Uni and everyone else too, just send a message right at the end. I guess that was a good way to end it.”

Garkani captured the 200 free in 1:42.06 for CdM, and he was second in the 100 free (46.58). The other event win for the Sea Kings came in the 200 free relay, where Marks, Karas, Garkani and Motal touched in 1:28.84.

Along with the CIF automatic times, O’Dea said more of his boys achieved consideration times. And he also got standout swims from junior Richard Barden, who always seems to taper well. Barden dropped six seconds to win the 200 free consolation heat, and he swam a quick 47-second split to help the CdM “B” 400 free relay team win its heat.

“I am so stoked with how well we swam today,” said O’Dea, whose team will now prepare for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 preliminaries and finals next week at Riverside City College.

Added Namba: “We turned on a switch today. I’m glad it turned on [today], rather than never. I think the relays showed what we can do when that switch is on.”

CdM girls’ Coach Doug Volding couldn’t be disappointed either. Brynne Wong lowered both of her individual school records, swimming a lifetime-best 55.20 to win the 100 butterfly. She edged her good friend, Irvine sophomore Emily Jiang (55.81), to win the race. Jiang won the event at CIF last year, while Wong finished second.

Wong’s time also was a meet record, bettering the 55.53 by Tara Thomas of Beckman from 2006.

“I’m really excited,” Wong said. “I remember when I was a freshman, I saw that record and I was like, ‘I’m going to get that.’ That was actually my best time ever, a 0.4 [second] drop.”

Wong also finished second in the 50 free to University’s Maggie Hofstadter, but her time of 23.98 seconds also lowered her school record mark.

The CdM girls also broke school records in both freestyle relays. Ally McCormick, Pippa Saunders, Hollace Barden and Wong finished second in the 200 free relay in a school-record 1:37.73. The previous record was 1:38.98, set last year by Wong, McCormick, Barden and Tori Gabert.

Volding liked the result so much that he kept the order the same for the 400 free relay. McCormick, Saunders, Barden and Wong responded with the second school record, 3:31.42. The former school record was held by Jordan Anae, Danielle Lavery, Lexie Shue and current CdM assistant coach Stephanie Gabert, who swam a 3:32.91 in 2005.

Cheyenne Low of University (girls) and Fletcher Norseen of Irvine (boys) were voted swimmers of the meet.

Twitter: @mjszabo