Namba can do it all for CdM

Jared Namba is the backstroke king for the Corona del Mar High boys' swim team.

The junior first broke the school record in the 100-yard backstroke his freshman year. Since then, he's whittled it down to the current 51.72 seconds, which Namba swam at the tri-meet with Capistrano Valley and Loyola on April 19.

The backstroke time is the fastest in Orange County this season. But to understand Namba's year in swimming, one needs to backtrack to the CIF Southern Section Division I finals last year.

Namba had an off day at the preliminaries. He failed to make the championship finals in either of his individual events, the 200 individual medley or the backstroke. He rebounded at finals to grab the consolation title in both — as well as contributing to the first-place medley relay team — but it was still disappointing for the then-sophomore. He had placed sixth in CIF in both events as a freshman in 2009.

"I think I was getting too worked up on making finals," Namba said. "Really, if I just stayed relaxed, I would have done what I needed to. This year, I'm more excited to just have fun with racing and see how everything goes. I'm not going to be as stressed."

Namba, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, is chill this year. Music is a big part of his life, so he's the guy who shows up to a photo shoot in a Coachella T-shirt.

He attended the three-day music festival for the first time earlier this month. His favorite band there was Arcade Fire, which makes sense considering how much Namba has heated up the pool this year.

Coach Barry O'Dea calls Namba "Mr. Consistent." He's also versatile, and he proved it last week in two big nonleague meets.

Namba won the 100 butterfly and 100 back and was on the winning medley relay team in the tri-meet. CdM beat Capo Valley, 90-80, earning bragging rights over the defending Division I champion and top-ranked team in the county. Two days later, O'Dea switched up his lineup but Namba was at it again, winning the 200 IM and 100 free and contributing to two relay wins.

He's that talented a swimmer. O'Dea could draw events out of a hat to determine what Namba will swim this year at CIF finals, though Namba said it could be the fly and back.

"We don't plan on putting him in the 500 [free]," O'Dea said. "But if I did, I think he could do that as well. He makes it fun to coach. I can put him in any event and I know I'm going to get a top-place finish."

Namba is definitely having fun this year, a talented junior on a team stacked with seniors like John Kim (Northwestern-bound), Matt Berry (UC Santa Barbara) and Garrett Larson (Minnesota). Namba is mature enough to fit right in.

"He's even-keeled," O'Dea said. "He's got a real drive, but he doesn't let a lot of things get to him. He's got a great mentality, as far as swimming goes."

It's a drive that has been built during several years of swimming club for the Irvine-based Aquazot Swim Club. Jared said he was "on the chubby side" as a 9-year-old, so his mother wanted him to get into some kind of sport.

It didn't take Namba long to start producing top times, something he's been doing in club swimming ever since. In March he went to the National Club Swimming Assn. Junior Nationals in Florida with the Aquazots and was part of the 200 medley team that set a Southern California boys' 15- to 18-year-old record, touching in 1:33.50. Cameron Price (St. Margaret's), Chris Wong (University) and Josh Smith (Edison) were also on the team, which placed seventh nationally.

Namba was also part of the CdM record-setting 200 medley team (also including Michael Liao, Kim and Berry) that posted a 1:33.26 last year.

Namba and his younger sister Alex, a freshman at CdM who also swims, take the sport seriously. But Jared still manages about a 4.2 or 4.3 grade-point average at Corona del Mar, he said.

"I try my best," he said, laughing. "Schoolwork places a burden on my swimming, and swimming places a burden on my schoolwork. I try to find the best way to manage both. It requires some late nights, but overall I think if I'm efficient with my time I can get things done."

The times in the pool are plenty efficient. Namba is relaxed and performing well in the pool. Away from it, he's a self-described "foodie," struggling to decide his favorite food before settling on sushi.

Then there's the music. This summer's Speedo Junior National Championships are at Stanford from Aug. 8-12. The same day the meet ends, the Outside Lands music festival begins in San Francisco, and Namba plans to attend that as well.

Arcade Fire will be playing there again. Nobody needs to tell Namba to "Wake Up" as the Sea Kings pursue the Pacific Coast League title next week and ultimately want to end up with the CIF crown.

Loyola of Los Angeles, which convincingly won the tri-meet, has established itself as the team to beat.

"I think we're better than last year, just because we've had so many new swimmers come up and we didn't lose too many seniors last year," Namba said. "I think this is our big year."

Namba's enjoying his.


Jared Namba

Born: April 15, 1994

Hometown: Greenbrae, Calif.

Height: 5-9

Sport: Swimming

Coach: Barry O'Dea

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite movie: "Superbad"

Favorite athletic moment: As a 14-year-old, being on a relay team that broke the national 13-14 long-course record in the 200 medley relay.

Week in review: He won the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke and was on the winning medley relay team as CdM defeated Capo Valley, 90-80, during a tri-meet on April 19. Two days later, Namba won the 200 individual medley and 100 free – and was also on two winning relay teams – as CdM defeated Back Bay rival Newport Harbor, 117-53.

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