As a junior, La Cañada High's Ian Mirisola proved himself to be an elite swimmer when he helped the Spartans capture the CIF Southern Section Division II title.
If the Spartans were to repeat as Division II champs in 2008, however, La Cañada Coach Art Lopez would need more than just Mirisola's best efforts in the pool.
“Ian was one of our captains and I more or less said to him, 'This is your team and you need to rally them around you and get them going,'” Lopez said. “He kind of guided and led the younger guys on what they were going to have to do to really step up to the big championship meet.
“He led by example and he was a great leader. He was like the soul of the team.”
Lopez got the leadership and the performance he was looking for from his top senior at the CIF final meet and the Spartans ended the season with their second Division II triumph in as many years.
For his continued leading role in the rise of the area's most successful swimming program over the last two years and his strong individual performances at the CIF finals and Masters Meet, Mirisola has earned the title of All-Area Boys' Swimmer of the Year, as voted on unanimously by the sportswriters and editors of the Crescenta Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader for the second consecutive year.
“It was great,” Mirisola said of the Spartans' championship run. “I'm just really glad I got to be a part of such a good team — they're just a great bunch of guys and I'm glad to have swam with them.”
Mirisola was a major points contributor to the Spartans' Division II victory on May 10 at Belmont Plaza pool in Long Beach, in which they totaled 236 points to edge out Loyola by just 15.
In addition to defending his title in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1 minute 49.50 seconds, he was part of La Cañada's runner-up 200-medley and 400-freestyle relay teams and also took third place in the 100 backstroke (50.29).
“His performance [at the Division II championship] was great,” Lopez said. “He said he was going to go under 1:50 and of course he did that in the 200 IM and was one of the top three in the nation [in that event] for high school guys. He did that and he even dropped his backstroke time.”
For Mirisola, his swim in the 200 IM at the Division II final stands as out as the highlight of his season, if not his career.
“I've been working really hard all my career to go under 1:50 and I was getting pretty close,” Mirisola said. “It was really exciting to be able to [get that time].”
Mirisola also showed his versatility when required to switch his stroke in the 200-medley relay for the greater good of the team. Moving from his backstroke specialty to the breaststroke leg, Mirisola made sure the team wouldn't miss a beat, as he logged a 26.95 split.
Of all the swimmers who competed in the 100 breaststroke that day, only Division II champion Vincent Pai (26.87) swam a faster breaststroke split.
“For a non-breaststroker to match breaststrokers' splits and even beat most of them, he did an exceptional job,” Lopez said. “He was very flexible in being able to change and accommodate what the team needed.”
At the Masters Meet, which convened at Belmont Plaza pool just two days after the Division II finals, Mirisola finished second in the 200 IM (1:50.89) and third in the 100 backstroke (51.33).
La Cañada also won the Rio Hondo League championship this season, with Mirisola taking home titles in the 200 IM (1:54.50) and 100 backstroke (52.18) at the league finals. His times in both events were new league final-meet records.