Edison High swimming co-Coach Diggy Riley knows that Friday can't come to fruition if Wednesday wasn't what it was supposed to be.
Last spring, the Edison girls' swim team captured the program's first CIF Southern Section championship. Since achieving that lofty status as Division I champs, the Chargers have been unstoppable this year in dual meets, both in nonleague and Sunset League competition. To top off the regular season, just last week they swam to the Sunset League finals crown at Newport Harbor.
On Wednesday, Edison began its bid for a title repeat at the CIF Southern Section Division I Swimming and Diving preliminaries at Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach. The Division I finals are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Friday, also at Belmont Plaza Pool.
To take CIF again would be, well, the proverbial icing on the cake for the Edison girls.
But, as Riley stressed, first things first.
"The key to winning CIF is having huge swims at prelims," said Riley, who is co-coach with Keith Ryan of both the Edison girls' and boys' teams. "The (CIF) meet is won by what happens in the pool at Wednesday's prelims. It's all about making it back to the finals and putting yourself in a position to score points for the team."
The Chargers have a solid core of athletes back from last year's team that won individual or team championships at the CIF meet. Among them is senior Cindy Tran, who won the girls' Division I 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke events, Tran, Sarah Moss and Danielle Warde (a fourth member, Monique Wilson, graduated last June) won the 200 medley relay in CIF record time (1:43.60), and the team of Tran, Warde, Alli Gillespie and Ellie Morrissey won the 400 free relay.
But with winning comes notoriety, and Tran said she's aware of it.
"We are definitely excited to have the chance to win CIF again, but it's also nerve-racking at the same time," said Tran, who will swim next year at Cal. "We are really positive and pumped heading into prelims and we know what we can do, but we aren't over-confident. We know we're a marked team. We're expected to do well, but other teams, like University and Fountain Valley, are talented and will be right up there contending for the title."
The 2010 Chargers seemingly haven't lost a stroke after losing key scorers Wilson and Kierstin Colesen from last year's championship team. Riley said that sophomore Abby Oshiro and freshman Kylie Boyce should fill that scoring void at this year's CIF meets.
Entering Wednesday's prelims, Riley said that Boyce was the only Charger this year to have set a school record. She did it by swimming a 1:05.09 in the 100 breaststroke at last week's league prelims meet.
"The strength of this team is a number of factors," Riley said. "The main key is the sprit and closeness of this team. The girl's really enjoy feeding off the passion and excitement from their teammates before, during and after their races. It is genuine, too. The other factor is that these girls love to compete. They thrive on tough competition and the challenges that present themselves. The bigger the competition, the bigger the challenge, the more focused and pumped up the girls get for themselves and each other.
"Lastly, the growth of our water polo players this year has been tremendous, as well. Danielle Warde, Haley Kunert, Alys Williams and Abby Oshiro all started on our varsity girls' team that was ranked as high as No. 2 in Orange County this year. All of these girls are having huge swim seasons this year."
The girls' Division I championship race promises to be a hotly contested affair. While Edison is looking to repeat, a strong University (Irvine) team and Fountain Valley — which has UCLA-bound Cynthia Fascella — are looking to knock off the Chargers and ascend to the top spot.
"There is no doubt that both myself and co-coach Keith Ryan have believed that we are in a good position to repeat, but not without a fight," Riley said. "University has a ton of club swimmers in their program, many of them ninth- and 10th-graders. Fountain Valley looks strong, too, especially in the two freestyle events.
"It is going to be a dogfight to the end, and I really believe that the relays are going to play a huge part of who wins, as well as how well our girls do on Wednesday at prelims. It's all about Wednesday. They know the importance of swimming big in the prelims. We have been speaking about it for weeks."
Danielle Warde, the only other senior on the Edison team besides Tran, will swim in the 50- and 100-free individual races with Fascella, and both the 50- and 100-free relays.
"I think we are really strong in relays and we're confident going into CIF," said Warde, who next year will play women's water polo at UC Irvine. "We are just really excited to have to opportunity to win back-to-back CIF titles. It's going to take a lot of focus and determination, and we need all our supporters to come out and cheer us on."
Edison has been in this position before but would like to leave Belmont Plaza Pool Friday in a new role: as back-to-back CIF champions. But that's not all. Riley and Ryan will be fully focused on the boys' Division I prelims and finals, as well.
"For the second year in a row, Keith and I have been co-coaches of both the boys' and girls' swim teams," Riley added. "We work extremely well together and have a lot of passion for these student athletes and their successes in and out of the pool."