IRVINE — One of the highlights at last weekend's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival occurred in the set by rappers Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, when a hologram version of the late Tupac Shakur rose up onto the stage and began performing.
Corona del Mar High senior Jared Namba went to Coachella again this year. The CdM boys' swim team needed the real Namba, not a hologram, in its key Pacific Coast League meet Wednesday at University High.
Namba and the Sea Kings, fresh off spring break, responded with a big victory. They pulled away for a 91.5-78.5 win, improving to 4-1 in league.
The two-time defending CIF Southern Section Division 1 champion University girls were too much for CdM. The Trojans won 10 of 11 events for a 125-45 victory, handing CdM (4-1 in league) its first league loss.
Coach Barry O'Dea said Wednesday was big for his boys, who have won five straight league titles. Last year went down to the wire, with CdM edging out second-place Uni, 484-482.5, at league finals.
CdM lost to Northwood in a league meet earlier this season, albeit one where several of the Sea Kings' top swimmers were in Florida for junior nationals. If CdM had lost again Wednesday, the best his team could have done was a tie for first in league by winning league finals.
"Even at Coachella, in the back of my mind I knew we had to win [Wednesday]," Namba said.
The Columbia-bound Namba won the 100-yard butterfly in 50.89 seconds, holding off his friend from University, Corey Okubo. He also won the 100 backstroke in 52.14 and led off the winning 200 medley relay team also featuring Tyler Lin, Christian Garkani and Ari Marks (1:36.57). Namba closed the meet by anchoring the winning 400 free relay team, which also had Blake Motal, Liam Karas and Justin Hanson and touched in 3:17.73.
Before the final relay, O'Dea tried to motivate Namba. He told him that CdM was only up by two points. In fact, the Sea Kings were ahead by seven points and had all but clinched victory.
"It was kind of shocking," Namba said. "From my point of view, we were winning by more than two points, so I was kind of confused. He seemed dead serious. But I know that our team can pull it together, because we have in the past."
Marks and Motal dominated in the sprint freestyle events. Marks won the 100 free in 48.41 and was second in the 50 free. Motal won the 50 in 21.93, tying for second in the 100 with University's Sam Lee. CdM's Garkani also won the 200 free, in 1:45.97.
CdM also won the 200 free relay, as Motal, Karas, Marks and Garkani touched in 1:28.04. The Sea Kings also got a boost in the race as the "B" team of Ian Givant, Jake Wyatt, Richie Barden and Reid Chase out-touched Uni's "B" team. A little too close for comfort, and after the race O'Dea playfully accused Uni Coach Tom Norton of splitting up his best relay swimmers.
It was all done with a smile. Norton, who went to CdM, also is O'Dea's former assistant coach in water polo.
"Right now we've got sprinters across the board," Norton said. "It's kind of hard for me to put together an 'A' relay and a 'B' relay. It wouldn't have been a bad strategy [splitting up the teams] ... Barry's a good sport, and he's got a lot of swimmers."
That "B" relay victory in the 200 free meant two more points for CdM, which was key at that point in the meet. CdM had actually briefly trailed after Uni went 1-3-5 in the 200 IM, with Okubo winning the race.
"I thought it was going to go [back-and-forth] like that all day," O'Dea said. "I had a feeling our relays were going to kind of save us. We've got some pretty fast relays. I had that to kind of count on. The big question mark was the breaststroke, but Tyler [Lin] did a good job and stayed in the race [getting second place]. I thought that made a big difference for us there."
CdM junior Brynne Wong was the only girl to finish first in a race, as she won the 100 fly in 57.58 seconds. Several CdM swimmers were trying to make CIF automatic times in the meet, but none of them did so. Coach Doug Volding attributed some of that to a slow pool.
As for the result of the meet, Volding was hardly surprised.
"We knew what we were facing, and it just shows you what a great team is," Volding said. "We're a very good team, but this was a great team today ... It just happens that the defending CIF champion is in our league."
But the longtime coach, who returned from a two-year retirement this year, could also be happy. Uni's girls' swim coach Robin Jacobsen went to CdM and swam for him in the late 1980s.
"I love to see her do well," Volding said. "That takes a little sting out of it."