Newport Harbor High senior swimmer Ayla Spitz is unassuming, even quiet when she is out of the water.
She isn’t one to brag. Her grade-point average at Newport Harbor is somewhere over 4.5, she said, but she’s not sure of the exact number.
“I think it must be,” said Spitz, who is currently taking Advanced Placement classes in Calculus BC and Government and an International Baccalaureate class in Literature.
The numbers in the pool do not lie for the Cal-bound Spitz, who is one of the most talented swimmers in the CIF Southern Section.
“We always joke that we’re in the presence of an Olympian,” senior teammate Kili Skibby said.
The talent level is not far off. Spitz will conclude her sparkling four-year varsity career Saturday, when she swims at the Division 1 finals, which begin at 11 a.m. at Riverside City College. She qualified third in both the 100-yard freestyle (49.47 seconds) and 200 free (1 minute 47.51 seconds) at Thursday’s preliminaries.
The times are fast, but expect Spitz to go faster Saturday. There is something about the big-meet atmosphere that brings out the best in her and her twin sister, Zoe, who is headed to Rice University in Texas next year.
Ayla Spitz set the Orange County girls’ record in the 100 freestyle at the Surf League finals on April 26 at Golden West College, touching in 48.63. The previous record of 48.69 had been set in 2015 by Santa Margarita’s Katie McLaughlin.
Spitz also won the 200 free in 1:45.02 at league finals, another lifetime best.
She said she doesn’t have any time goals per se for CIF finals. She just wants to better her times at league finals, as great as they were.
There is always room for improvement for Spitz, a dedicated club swimmer for Irvine Novaquatics, where she practices up to 20 hours per week.
“There are definitely some things I could work on, especially my 200,” she said. “I think I could have a better second 100. If I do that, I think I have some room to drop in that race. The 100, too, just tightening up my starts and turns and making sure I hit all of those. The competition at CIF is really good, so having those girls right next to you at the end of a race is really helpful.”
The Spitz twins, Skibby and freshman Taylor Smith also won the 200 and 400 freestyle relays at league finals. They made the CIF championship finals in both events after qualifying sixth and seventh, respectively, at preliminaries.
Ayla Spitz’s 22.60 leadoff leg in the 200 free relay at league finals also approached the county record of 22.53, set in 2013 by Lindsey Engel of Crean Lutheran.
Zoe Spitz won the league title in the 50 free and qualified fifth for CIF finals as well. There is reason to believe that the Sailors, who finished fourth in Division 1 last year with just four swimmers, could have a similar type of result this season.
We always joke that we’re in the presence of an Olympian.
But all eyes will be on Ayla Spitz, who was the Division 1 champion in the 500 free last year and was runner-up in the 200 free. She was the CIF champion in the 100 free as a sophomore.
She said that the CIF finals meet is fun because it more resembles a club meet with all of the fast swims.
“In swimming, I don’t really have any rivalries, I would say, just because they’re all such good friends of mine,” Spitz said. “It’s hard to think of them as rivals, but I would say that Ella Ristic and Samantha Pearson are definitely two girls that are going to be in my events. They’re great competition for me, and they always push me.”
There are no secrets on Saturday. Ristic, a junior at Santa Margarita, qualified first in both the 100 and 200. Pearson, a junior at Foothill, qualified second. Spitz, however, had the faster times headed into preliminaries, suggesting that she held back a bit on Thursday.
She is more than just the talented club swimmer, though. She has been a good teammate to someone like freshman Taylor Smith, who is a water polo player.
“I want to set a good example for her, but I also want her to have fun with it and not feel too stressed or too much pressure for every race,” Spitz said. “She’s so talented that she doesn’t need to worry about anything. I think she’s done an amazing job stepping up this season. She didn’t know at the beginning of the season that she would end up on all her relays, and I think she’s just done a great job of just stepping up and doing her best for every single race she’s been in.”
The same could be said of Ayla and Zoe Spitz. Newport Harbor will miss their competitive edge, said assistant coach Diggy Riley, previously the longtime head coach at Edison.
“We swam at Edison, and some of the kids are just like, ‘These blocks suck, it’s shallow, the pool is hot,’ ” Riley said. “And they roll in there and do exactly what they always do. It’s fast. Their mentality doesn’t change. There are no roadblocks in their mind, in my opinion. They could care less what pool they’re swimming in. In the three years I’ve coached them, they’ve never had an inconsistent race.”
Born: Jan. 8, 2001
Hometown: Newton, Mass.
Height: 5 feet 8
Coach: Ross Sinclair
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: “The Incredibles”
Favorite athletic moment: Anchoring the 400-free relay at the Surf League finals this year.
Week in review: Spitz won the 100- and 200-yard girls’ freestyle events at the Surf League finals, setting an Orange County record of 48.63 seconds in the 100. She also raced on the Sailors’ winning 200- and 400 freestyle relays with twin sister Zoe, Taylor Smith and Kili Skibby.
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