Falcons' outright reign continues

BURBANK — With dual-meet supremacy already in their back pockets, the Crescenta Valley High girls' and boys' swimming teams reaffirmed their dominance of the Pacific League championship meet, clinching outright titles at Burbank High on Thursday.

It marked the 20th straight league crown for the boys, while the girls' team has now strung together five in a row.

"We talked about that before the meet, that it was the 20th one, and just showing respect for the athletes who have come before and been part of that whole legacy," Crescenta Valley boys' Coach Jan Sakonju said.

While the Falcons girls' team (503 points) ended up with a comfortable margin over runner-up Pasadena (402.5), the Bulldogs stayed in the hunt, trailing by just 70 with four events to go. But Iva Icheva's two individual wins, a pair of relay titles and overall superior depth were enough to hold off the challenge.

"It's been an amazing day," said Icheva, who won the 50-yard freestyle in 24.83 seconds before capping her day with a win in the 100 backstroke in 58.94. "I'm so ecstatic, I don't even know what to say."

With its 563 points easily outpacing runner-up Arcadia (320), Crescenta Valley's boys' team won eight of 11 events and mostly had only its own past glory to chase, although that did prove elusive.

The Falcons were unable to lower any of the unprecedented seven league marks set by last year's team at league finals, although Harrison Thai did equal his own record of in the 100-yard backstroke of 51.16 seconds set in 2011.

But Thai, Young Tae Seo, Louis Wojciechowski and Edward Yi did shatter the league record in the 400-freestyle set by CV's Josh Chi, Tristan Winterhalter, Andrew De Jong and Sharif Alaoui in 2009, with their 3:10.06 mark shaving a full two seconds off the previous record. Wojciechowski also broke James Jenkins' 100-freestyle record of 47.16 (1999) by swimming a 46.33 in his leadoff split in the relay.

"It was definitely nice," Thai said of ending the meet with a win and new record in the 400-freestyle relay. "We had a really good relay last year. I think we went a 3:07 at [the CIF Southern Section Division II finals] and 3:10 for league finals is a great start. We're definitely in it for CIF and it's something to look forward to."

Thai, Seo, Yi and Antonio Camarillo came just .09 seconds from breaking the 200-medley relay record set by Seo, Thai, Chi and Chris Veselich in 2010. But their mark of 1:37.89 was still enough to win the race by more than seven seconds and set the tone for the meet.

Wojciechowski followed with a win in the 200 freestyle in another near miss, coming just .21 seconds away from breaking his own 2011 record.

"I was just trying to go under 1:40," Wojciechowski said. "It was my first time this season, so I was happy."

The Falcons' string of wins continued with Thai's win in the 200-individual medley — his time of 1:52.13 was also .21 seconds off his own record from the previous year — but was interrupted one event later when Glendale's Mickey Mowry upset Wojciechowski, the reigning champion and league record-holder, in the 100 butterfly.

"Not being rested, I feel pretty good, it was a really good race," said Mowry, who won the race in 50.44, while Wojciechowski came in with a 50.71. "I came here to race and knowing Louis Wojciechowski would be my competition, I just wanted to have a good race and have fun.

"On the last turn I saw that we were neck and neck so I just tried to keep my pull strong and my elbows up."

Mowry also finished second in the 200 freestyle in 1:42.76 to help Glendale score 144 points to edge Hoover (142), which got a third-place finish in the 100 freestyle from Hakop Kaplanyan (51.04), for sixth place.

Seo dominated in the 500 freestyle, finishing nearly 29 seconds ahead of runner-up Yi in 4:31.02, but lamented missing his 2011 record in the event by .41 seconds.

"I should have gone under 4:30, that was my plan," said Seo, who also won the 100 breaststroke in 58.30. "I will still take it. I would say it was so-so, I wouldn't say it was great. Our focus is next week."

Crescenta Valley also won the 200-freestyle relay in 1:29.28 behind Wojciechowski, Ksendov, Camarillo and Stephen Woo.

"It's definitely a great start," said Thai in reference to the Falcons' ultimate goal of winning a CIF Southern Section Division II championship now that the league title is secured. "CIF is coming up, it was disappointing [finishing third at CIF] last year and Louis is a senior this year, so this is probably our best chance. League's done, so we're looking forward to that now."

The Falcons girls started their day with a near-record-breaking swim in the 200-medley relay from Icheva, Sabrina Hatzer, Nayiri Keshishyan and Jesse Gabor, whose winning time of 1:54.79 missed the mark by .06 seconds.

Pasadena kept things interesting by taking three of the top five spots in the 500 freestyle, but Heather Abrams took fourth (5:35.65) and the Falcons scored 38 total points in the event to keep the lead stable.

Crescenta Valley followed that with a win in the 200-freestyle relay from Gabor, Abrams, Hatzer and Icheva in 1:44.78 and Icheva brought the lead to just under 100 points with her backstroke win.

"This is totally unexpected for me," Icheva said of her backstroke time. "I have some really competitive teammates, my friend Harrison [Thai] really pushed me to break that 59 limit."

Hatzer also finished second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:10.67.

Glendale, which got a third-place showing from Maddie Corpuz in the 100 backstroke In 1:09.12, finished with 142 points for fifth place, while Hoover was seventh with 34.


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