CORONA DEL MAR — After finishing third at the CIF Southern Section Division I finals last year, John Kim and the Corona del Mar High boys' swimming team are hungry.
Motivation is not in short supply for the Sea Kings.
"This year it's really emotional for us," said Kim, a Northwestern commit. "All of the seniors want to go out with a bang. We're all in it to win it right now."
That ultimate goal can be accomplished down the road. On Friday at CdM, the Sea Kings were satisfied knowing they continue to be the team to beat in the Pacific Coast League.
CdM started strong and beat University, 99-71, staying undefeated in league dual meets at 4-0. The Trojans fall to 3-1.
On the girls' side, University (4-0) handed CdM (3-1) its first league loss of the season, 104-66.
Kim did his part for the Sea Kings, who are aiming for their fifth straight league title. Jared Namba, Garrett Larson, Kim and Bruce Bearer began the meet by placing first in the 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute, 38.16 seconds, a CIF Southern Section Division I automatic time.
Kim was edged in the 200 individual medley by University freshman Corey Okubo, but his time was fast at 1:54.80. He came back to win the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.14, yet another automatic time.
The Sea Kings were also strong in the freestyle events against Uni, which has CdM alumnus Tom Norton as its first-year boys' head coach. CdM senior Matt Berry (21.78 seconds), junior Ari Marks (22.18) and sophomore Blake Motal (22.45) swept the top three spots in the 50 free. Berry also won the 100 free in 47.81, another automatic CIF time.
CdM also went two-three-four in the 500 free behind sophomores Paul Sigler (4:59.33) and Jake Wyatt (5:00.97) and senior Hayden Leach (5:07.19).
"I think our freestylers are starting to come alive," CdM Coach Barry O'Dea said. "Blake Motal wasn't feeling real hot. He missed school yesterday, but he's coming along. Ari's coming along, and Matt Berry's solid. We're getting there."
Namba won the 100 backstroke in 52.60 and was second in the 100 butterfly in 51.89, easily two more automatic times. He said it was a long week for CdM, racing in its third dual meet of the week because next week is spring break.
"I just wanted CdM to stay on top," said Namba, a junior. "I knew that if we racked up points in the events Uni was weak in, then we'd be pretty safe. We were mainly focused on this meet. It was stressful. I'm surprised we did so well considering the lactic acid build-up we have right now."
O'Dea also highlighted sophomore Christian Garkani and his standout swims in the 200 free (1:48.12, second place) and 100 back (54.33, third).
Sophomore Brynne Wong won the 50 free (24.41) and 100 fly (57.85) for the CdM girls. Both are CIF automatic times and girls' co-Coach Stephanie Gabert said those were Wong's season-bests.
Junior Hollace Barden also helped the CdM girls rack up as many points as possible against the defending CIF Southern Section Division I champions. Barden won the 100 free in 54.05. She also provided a highlight in the meet-ending 400 free relay, where her anchor leg helped the Sea Kings team (also featuring Ally McCormick, Tori Gabert and Pippa Saunders) come from behind to touch first in a CIF automatic time of 3:40.31.
Barden's anchor leg was a swift 53.40 for the swimmer Gabert said they call "Seabiscuit."
"When she sees somebody ahead of her, she wants to chase 'em down and beat 'em," Gabert said. "She has such heart and she always wants to do her best."
McCormick finished second in both the 200 free and 100 free for CdM, which continues to benefit from an interesting mix of club swimmers and water polo players.
"The combination is really good," Barden said. "All the water polo girls are really fast and we all get along really well."
The 200 free relay team of McCormick, Cassidy Papa, Gabert and Wong finished second to Uni in 1:42.91, but the time was a season-best.
CdM's boys next have a big tri-meet against defending Division I champion Capistrano Valley and Loyola on April 19. The meet, at Capo Valley, features the top three finishers at last year's CIF finals.