Swimming: CdM boys again second

RIVERSIDE — Last year the Corona del Mar High boys' swim team finished second place at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 finals, the Sea Kings' first top-two finish since 1970.

They liked it so much, they had an encore performance Saturday night at Riverside City College.

CdM's boys couldn't quite catch Capistrano Valley, which won CIF for the second straight year with 327 points. CdM was second with 264.

The CdM girls also finished second, marking the first time in program history that both genders finished top-two at CIF finals.

The CdM boys unleashed standout performances in nearly every event. It felt good to the Sea Kings, as did finishing above Pacific Coast League champion and rival University, who was in fourth at CIF finals.

"I'm just happy that, as usual, we beat University at CIF," said University of Louisville-bound CdM senior Christian Garkani. "They don't got nothin' at CIF … Without [graduate Jared] Namba, Liam [Karas] stepped up, so he was our new versatile guy. I don't know; we just had a good year this year."

That started with the 200-yard medley relay.

For the first time in four years, CdM didn't win the event. The Sea Kings also lost their meet record, as Los Angeles Loyola lowered it to 1:31.16. But the Sea Kings' Garkani, Tyler Lin, Justin Hanson and Blake Motal still beat their Orange County record from a year ago, touching in 1:32.00.

"We can't be mad," Garkani said. "We broke our old record from last year, without Namba. That was still really fast."

Garkani won the 200 free in a school-record 1:39.05. That broke the oldest record in the CdM boys' swimming record book, a 1:39.28 by Eric Ford in 1986.

Karas, a junior, had a standout performance in the 200 individual medley, finishing second in a school-record 1:47.33. He was out-touched by favored University junior Corey Okubo (1:47.07), though Karas was ahead by seven-hundredths of a second going into the freestyle leg.

"I knew I had to keep up with him on the fly, because I knew his backstroke was really strong," Karas said. "I've been working on my breaststroke a lot lately, so that's the length I really pushed hard. That's where I caught up most, and the freestyle was just anyone's game. He had a little better game today."

Motal, headed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, placed third in the 50 free. He lowered his school-record time of 20.78 seconds. Karas (45.77), Garkani (45.82) and Motal (46.13) also went three-four-five in the 100 free.

CdM's 200 free relay team of Motal, senior Jack Harryman, Karas and Garkani finished second in 1:23.39. In the boys' 400 free relay, CdM also was second as Karas, Harryman, Lin and senior Richie Barden finished in 3:05.53, yet another school record.

"It's a great way for [the seniors] to end our careers at CdM," Harryman said. "It's definitely a good way to go out. A bunch of guys swam really good. These guys coming back next year, hope they do it again."

Among other swimmers in championship finals, some even surprised. Lin, seeded sixth and racing from Lane 8, was third in the 100 breast in a personal-best 56.31 seconds.

With the onslaught of school records and blazing swims, CdM boys' coach Barry O'Dea was pleased with his team's performance.

"It was fun today," O'Dea said. "Capo got a lot of points in diving, so you start in a hole. Their freestylers were pretty good. But my freestylers were pretty good, too."

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