A big season for the Corona del Mar High boys' swimming team ended in a big way.
The Sea Kings saved the best for last, stepping up at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 finals May 12 at Riverside City College.
They accomplished feats that hadn't been done in decades. Their second-place team finish was the best for the CdM boys since 1970.
CdM also won the 200-yard medley relay for the third straight year. But it was the time that made this victory so special.
Senior Jared Namba (backstroke), freshman Tyler Lin (breaststroke), junior Christian Garkani (butterfly) and junior Blake Motal (freestyle) touched in 1:32.88, an Orange County record and a Division 1 meet record. The previous meet record was a 1:33.21 by San Marino in 1991.
The Columbia-bound Namba has been on the CIF-winning medley relay teams each of the last three years. In Namba's freshman year of 2009, CdM got second at the Division 1 finals to Back Bay rival Newport Harbor.
"It's really cool," Namba said. "I mean, I've been waiting four years and finally we pulled it together, which is exciting."
The Sea Kings certainly did. Namba, Lin and Garkani also all swim club for the Irvine AquaZots. At CIF finals, Namba swam the opening backstroke leg of the medley in a 23.36. It was the second-fastest in the championship heat.
Lin also stepped up. In December, Lin and three of his teammates broke the national 13-14 age group record in the medley relay. At the CIF finals, Lin swam a 26.83 split. It was more than a half-second better than his 27.36 in preliminaries, when CdM qualified first in 1:34.15.
"A lot of pressure," Lin said. "I knew I had to go a lot faster than I went in prelims."
Last year, Garkani said he was put on the winning medley relay at the last second. The Sea Kings had to scramble as then-senior John Kim was injured. This year, Garkani swam his leg in a swift 22.25, the second-fastest in the finals heat.
"I wasn't really thinking about the record," said Garkani, who had to leave the competition area quickly at Riverside City College to prepare for the 200 freestyle, in which he got second place. "[Breaking the record] kind of surprised me, so to be a part of that is pretty cool. Hopefully it won't get broken for a while."
Then you have Motal, the only non-club swimmer in the quartet. Motal is a water polo attacker who helped CdM reach the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title match last fall.
In the medley relay final, Motal swam the freestyle in a blistering 20.44 split. It was the fastest in the championship heat, and Motal said it's also a personal-best for him.
"I just knew I had to go out and swim my hardest 50," Motal said. "I just went out there and did that."
The four fast individual swims equaled a magical relay for the Sea Kings. It was a fitting end to a successful year. Even if University broke CdM's string of five straight Pacific Coast League titles, the Sea Kings finished strong.
"It's cool, because at our school we're a big water polo school, but no one really knows about swimming," Garkani said. "It's cool that we could get runner-up at least, put it out there that we have a good swim team."
Namba, who won the 200 individual medley at CIF finals and had a sparkling four-year prep career, couldn't really ask for anything more.
"This was the best season we've had, the most exciting," he said. "I think to get second place in Division 1 is pretty awesome."