CdM's fantastic four

LONG BEACH — The medley relay requires strong swimmers in each of the four strokes.

That definitely was not a problem this year for the Corona del Mar High boys' swim team.

One of their main highlights Friday night at the CIF Southern Section Division I finals came in that meet-opening 200-yard medley relay, which they won for the second straight year at Belmont Plaza pool. Junior Jared Namba (backstroke), senior Garrett Larson (breaststroke), sophomore Christian Garkani (butterfly) and junior Ari Marks (freestyle) touched in 1 minute, 34.28 seconds.

"I'm a water polo player," said Marks, part of the Sea Kings' Division II boys' water polo title team in the fall. "I just swim because I have to. But you always just get really pumped up for big races. I was ready to go. I knew I had to go fast."

Marks passed his Loyola opponent in the adjacent lane on the freestyle leg, speeding to a quick 20.56 split. The Sea Kings as a team couldn't quite do the same, as Loyola won the Division I title going away with 287 points.

CdM, racing without perhaps its top swimmer in senior John Kim (sprained ankle), finished third for the second straight year. The Sea Kings boys finished with 192.5 points, also behind Capistrano Valley (218 points).

CdM's girls, paced by sophomore Brynne Wong's second-place finish in the 100 butterfly, also finished the same as last year. The Sea Kings were 13th as a team, and University won its second straight girls' team title.

"John was probably our No. 1 swimmer," CdM Coach Barry O'Dea said. "You lose him going into CIF and you still finish third, I think that says a lot about what we have and what we're capable of. You can't be disappointed with third place on the boys' side. And on the girls' side, we made some huge strides this year."

That medley relay was definitely a highlight.

"Garkani stepped up at CIF in the butterfly role," O'Dea said. "He went a 22.9 today in the 50 fly in the medley relay. That's pretty dang fast. And it says a lot about Ari's heart that he was able to catch up and make the pass at the end."

Wong, the only local girl competing in an individual championship final, did not disappoint. Wong was second in the 100 fly in 56.32, just 21 hundredths of a second off her personal-best in the race won by Wong's club teammate, Irvine freshman Emily Jiang (55.36).

"It was a hard race," said Wong, who also won the consolation girls' 50 free final in 24.25. "On the last lap, my body just started to cramp up. I would have rather had first, but second's still good. It was a lot higher than [my 11th place finish] last year … I'm so proud of [Jiang]."

CdM senior Matt Berry also had a big meet. After winning the 50 free consolation final in a school record 20.93 seconds, he finished fourth in the 100 free in another school-record time of 45.61. Both of the records Berry broke were from 1986.

"It was good," said Berry, bound for UC Santa Barbara. "I've been feeling good. I tapered well for finals and I swam my own race. I've been trying to get both of those [records]."

The CdM boys' 200 free relay team of Marks, Garkani, Blake Motal and Berry finished third in 1:24.85.

Among other local swimmers in championship finals, the University of Minnesota-bound Larson was third in the boys' 200 individual medley in 1:51.65. Namba was fourth in the back (51.44) and seventh in the fly (52.22), while Garkani was eighth in the back (52.22).

Newport Harbor's only swimmers in a championship final were in the boys' 400 free relay, where junior Tom Fisher, senior Sean Richards, junior Ryan Fowler and senior Davy Jorth finished fifth in a season-best 3:08.98. The Sailors had a difficult year as their coach, Jason Lynch, was fired mid-season, but they saved one of their best performances for CIF finals. The quartet said each of their splits were also season-best.

"I think with all the controversy, we pulled together more as a team," Fowler said.

Added Jorth: "Nothing's ever changed. Newport Harbor tradition will always stay strong."

The CdM boys' 400 free relay (Motal, Larson, Namba and Berry) was sixth in 3:09.08, which exactly matched their time from the preliminaries and approached the school record of 3:08.72, also set in 1986.

The CdM girls' 200 free relay team of sophomore Ally McCormick, senior Tori Gabert, junior Hollace Barden and Wong finished seventh in 1:39.55.

"All of the girls that are here really stepped up and really came together," CdM girls' co-coach Stephanie Gabert said. "I felt like the girls bonded a lot more this year, and I felt like that helped them throughout the whole season."

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