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Falcons get sweet 16

BURBANK — Coming into Thursday’s Pacific League swimming finals at Burbank High, the Crescenta Valley High girls’ swimming team had little to gain, having already clinched at least a share of the league crown by winning the league dual-meet championship on April 23.

The opposite could be said for the Falcons boys’ team, which entered the final league meet needing, for the third year in a row, a win to force a share of the league title.

Led by three relay victories and individual depth, Crescenta Valley’s boys’ squad finished the season with at least a share of the league title for the 16th straight year. The Falcons racked up 657.5 points to beat co-champion Arcadia (482.5 points) by a whopping margin.

Crescenta Valley’s girls finished second behind Arcadia with 505 points on Thursday and will share the league title with the Apaches (564 points), who won it outright last year.


“One of our goals this year was to win the dual-meet [title], but I made several mistakes and the guys didn’t swim very well that day and so we lost that,” Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju said in reference to the April 23 dual-meet against the Apaches, which Crescenta Valley lost, 89-81. “Because we’ve been in this situation before, the guys really rose up to the occasion.”

The tone was set early with a win in the 200-yard medley relay by Sharif Alaoui, Vinh Doan, Ted Gonder and Jason Kim in 1 minute, 39.69 seconds, a new league record.

The success continued for members of that team in individual events, as Kim automatically qualified for the CIF Southern Section prelims with wins in the 100 backstroke in 54.92 and the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.49.

Gonder’s win in the 50 freestyle in 22.34 was also an automatic CIF-qualifying time and Doan logged a CIF-consideration time of 49.03 in winning the 100 freestyle.


Andrew De Jong also won a league title for the Falcons in the 200-individual medley (2:04.07).

“Our depth [was key],” said Sakonju, whose team benefitted from second-place finishes in four different individual events. “In a dual meet, you can’t always see the depth.”

“The 200 free and the breaststroke are good examples of that — we had five guys in the final for both races. Points-wise that makes a huge difference.”

Crescenta Valley also got a win in the 200-freestyle relay from Mason Holland, Tristan Winterhalter, James Hales and Chris Veselich in 1:34.50.

Alaoui, Doan, De Jong and Gonder capped the day off with a 400 freestyle-relay win in a CIF-automatic 3:19.80.

On the girls’ side, junior standout Yumi So was a double-winner for the Falcons, setting new league records in the 100 butterfly (55.29) and 100 backstroke (57.28).

Michelle Du also picked up multiple titles in the 200-individual medley (2:18.59) and the 100 freestyle (54.35).

“Just like every other school, we calculate the point totals, figure out how much we’re behind and see where we can squeeze a few points out,” said Falcons Coach Robert Miller, who got a win in the 400 freestyle relay (3:44.11) from Du, So, Keri Kunkel and Christine Cho. “We had a plan and we just weren’t able to execute it today. That was really the story.


“With Arcadia and CV, both teams want it all — there’s something so huge about having that undeafeated champion, not this sharing stuff.”

First-year Glendale Coach Pat Lancaster had no misgivings about his teams’ respective finishes on Thursday — a third-place showing for the girls with 240 points and a fourth-place effort from the boys’ squad with 178 points.

“In dual meets this year, we were third in both [boys’ and girls’] and we knew that in this championship setting, where Arcadia and CV are pretty much taking 12 of the 16 spots [in each event], there’s not much room for anybody else,” Lancaster said. “We knew we were really going to have to fight to get some points.”

Leading the fight for the girls was sophomore Katalina Sher, who won the 200 (1:57.94) and 500 freestyle (5:18.05).

The boys were paced by a win in the 100 butterfly by Kyle Ferguson in 54.49.

“I’m really pleased with how it came out,” Lancaster said. “Most of these boys started out as non-swimmers and they’re just tapping into their potential.”

Hoover placed sixth on the girls’ side with 99 points and seventh on the boys’ with 60 points.