HUNTINGTON BEACH — A day before their biggest meet of the season so far, members of the Newport Harbor High boys' swim team received some startling news.
The Sailors would be without their coach, Jason Lynch. The school's principal Michael Vossen said Monday that Lynch would not be coaching the team, effective immediately, for unspecified reasons.
Assistant coach Corey Delahunt told the team the news after school Monday. The mood was somber.
"We tried to get in [the water] for a little bit but we couldn't really do much," senior Andrew Duhoux said.
A day later, Edison made sure the Sailors again didn't get much going. The host Chargers started strong and won the key Sunset League meet by a comfortable margin, 97.5-72.5.
Edison's girls had an even easier time in posting a 116-53 victory.
Delahunt, who played water polo for Lynch at Costa Mesa High, was the boys' coach for Newport Harbor in Tuesday's meet. He kept busy while watching the Sailors boys' varsity, junior varsity and open division teams compete.
"It probably would have been better if they had planned for someone to take over for [Lynch], and they didn't," Duhoux said. "[We were] kind of left coach-less. It's hard for [Delahunt] to deal with three levels of teams and stay focused on all of them. He does the best he can, and we all respect him for that, but for 60 or however many guys we have you kind of need at least two coaches.
"But he did what he could do. It really just came down to us not performing."
Delahunt said he didn't know the reason why Lynch isn't currently coaching or when he might return. He said the school plans to bring in another coach to help out. But in the meantime, he watched the three-time defending league champion Sailors (3-1 in league) lose their first league meet to the Chargers (3-0).
Newport Harbor did win the meet-opening 200-yard medley relay. Curtis Fink, Ryan Fowler, Ian Baugh and Duhoux out-touched the Chargers' quartet to finish in 1 minute, 44.85 seconds. The Sailors' "B" relay (Sean Richards, Miles Mendoza, Koby Yokota and Garrett Keillor) placed third, so the Sailors had a 10-4 edge.
It was erased quickly in the next event, the 200 freestyle won by Edison junior Michael Hauss. Newport's Tom Fisher finished second in 1:46.37 but Edison also took third and fourth place. They also got first and third in the 200 individual medley won by Josh Smith.
"We knew Newport's speed in the freestyles," Edison Co-Coach Diggy Riley said. "We knew we had to set the tone early in the IM. The 200 IM was huge, with Nate [Sfreddo] over here in Lane 7 getting third place for us. That kind of set the tone right then and there. The guys just came together today and swam well. Swimming fast is contagious. You see guys swimming early and throwing down some great times, and they feed off each other."
The Chargers consistently had swimmers move up, like when Tony Morelli out-touched Fisher to place second in the 500 free (4:56.70 to 4:56.79) won by Hauss. Fowler was the only Newport swimmer to win an individual event, as the junior won the 100 butterfly (56.50) and the 100 breaststroke (1:03.62).
Newport Harbor, still missing junior water polo standout Farrel South to tendinitis, did win the meet-ending 400 free relay. Fisher, Keillor, Preston Lee and Davey Jorth touched in 3:23.37.
"This pool isn't exactly the greatest to be swimming in," Duhoux said. "Temperature-wise, when you come from this [warm-up] pool to this [main] pool, it's a huge difference. This [warm-up] pool is a lot colder and this [main] pool is like a Jacuzzi. But people were just not stepping up, that's probably the bottom line really. With or without our coach, people should be able to step up, and nobody really stepped up. It's quite evident. All of our times were slower; it wasn't what we're capable of [doing]."
Delahunt said members of the team were focused before the meet.
"You've got to adjust," Delahunt said. "I still thought we battled … from my perspective I thought everyone was focused and ready to go. Obviously [Lynch] is on everybody's mind. We've just got to continue to fight through it and continue to work. That's the bottom line."
The Edison girls, who won the CIF Southern Section Division I championship in 2009 and finished second last year, won every race Tuesday but one. Newport Harbor sophomore Casey Duckworth won the 500 free in 5:15.34.
Duckworth was also second in the 200 IM in 2:13.32, and junior Zoe Robles was second in the 50 free in 25.62 seconds.
Newport Harbor sophomore Carly Christian had two second-place finishes, in the 100 free (55.35) and 200 free (1:59.37). The latter time impressed Sailors Coach Brian Melstrom.
"She's had a couple of two double-ohs and she finally broke the barrier," Melstrom said. "That's a pretty respectable time. Not a lot of girls in our program have ever broken two minutes."
The Sailors have no meets until they play host to Back Bay rival Corona del Mar on April 21. The boys will need more respectable times at the Sunset League finals, May 6 at Newport Harbor.
"We're going to be swimming at our own pool at league finals," Jorth said. "We know what to do. It's just everybody coming together and swimming for each other."