GLENDALE — The 2008 high school swimming season ended only recently, but for Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy sophomore Andrea Kropp and Crescenta Valley High junior Yumi So, the heart of their season is just getting started.
The three-day Speedo Grand Challenge, which kicked off Friday at the Woolett Aquatics Center in Irvine, is one of the early stops on a schedule of high-profile, elite national meets, including the Olympic trials June 29-31 in Omaha, that the two will attend with Swim Pasadena as part of a busy summer ahead.
“It’s kind of full speed ahead just right after CIF,” said Kropp, who competed in two individual events and two relays at the CIF Southern Section Division II finals and Masters Meet May 10 and 13. “I feel like I had a little chance to catch my breath and then just plunged right into this meet.”
Kropp had quite a busy day on Friday, competing in three preliminaries and two final swims, including the championship heat of the 200-yard individual medley.
Her mark of 2:21.65 in the 200 IM on Friday was one second off her best time and good for third place behind Lindsay DePaul (2:17.53) and Rebecca Soni (2:19.33).
“She really took it out well on her fly and back and that put her in a good place because her asset is her breaststroke,” Swim Pasadena Coach Terry Stoddard said. “We were a little bit weaker tonight coming home on the freestyle.
“I expected a little bit more, but she just maybe emotionally got into it a little too much early ... It was a good swim, she was top four racing against some national champions — I complement her for that.”
So also competed in the 200 IM and qualified for the consolation final where she finished third (seventh overall) in 2:21.49, a 1.74-second drop from her sixth-best preliminary time earlier in the day.
“She just missed getting in that top four [in prelims] and had a good swim tonight,” Stoddard said. “We missed the 200 IM [finals] today, but we’re hoping we can pick up the 400 IM [today].”
Kropp also qualified for the 100 breaststroke consolation final where a swim of 1:15.03 put her in seventh place and 11th overall.
In her only other event of the day, the 400 freestyle, Kropp placed 27th (4:38.38) in the preliminary heat.
Other swimmers with local ties competing at the Speedo Grand Challenge include former Crescenta Valley High standout James Martin, who is now at the University of Southern California.
Martin, competing with the Trojan Swim Club, finished third (seventh overall) in the consolation final of the 200 IM (2:09.44). He also finished eighth in 1:09.25 in the preliminary heat of the 100 breaststroke, but did not swim in a finals heat in that event.
Madeline Talt of Sacred Heart, which finished third in Division II, swam in the 400 freestyle preliminary and finished 33rd (4:41.86).
Sharif Alaoui of Crescenta Valley finished 65th in the preliminary of the 50 freestyle (26.13) and was disqualified from the 200 IM preliminary.
GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.