While the Crescenta Valley High boys’ swimming team goes into the two-day CIF Southern Section Division II championship meet as the reigning champion, Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju sees his team in a much different light this year.
Last season, CV just held off Damien, 301-293, to capture the Division II championship and waiting not much further behind was Los Osos (203).
“I don’t think [Los Osos is] the main contender, they’re the favorite for sure,” said Sakonju, whose team has placed in the top three in Division II the last three years. “They’ve got to be the favorite and we’re the underdog, and we’re going to swim to the best of our ability and see what happens.”
Fresh off its first CIF title in 12 years, the Falcons will be led by Young Tae Seo and Harrison Thai, who are both determined to end their high school seasons in style in Division II, which hosts its prelims Friday at 9 a.m. and finals Saturday at 10 a.m.
While CV looks for repeat success, the Flintridge Prep boys’ team hopes to transition from a team that didn’t have a swimmer in a championship or consolation final race in Division II to a championship contender in Division III, which begins today at 4 p.m. and concludes with a finals meet Thursday with a 5 p.m. start time.
“We’re really excited and it’s kind of a big step for us from making alternates last year and being maybe a real competitor this year in this division,” said Flintridge Prep Coach Ryan Goto, who credited new coaches like Ingrid Herskind for being “instrumental” in the program’s turnaround.
In Division I, a young Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy team is looking to build more momentum and move up the standings again.
“We’re going to do some damage at CIF,” Tologs Coach Steve Bergen said. “Really our goal at CIF is to be in the top 10, that’s what we’ve told ourselves all year long ... which we’d be really proud of in Division I.”
Seo and Thai are the top two seeds in the 200-yard individual medley with seed times of one minute, 49.77 seconds and 1:51.29, respectively. Thai is favored in the 100 backstroke (50.48) and Seo is also No. 2 in the 100 breaststroke (56.42).
The Falcons will likely need more than just that after graduating Louis Wojciechowski, who provided two runner-up individual finishes and was a key relay swimmer a year ago. A combination of Jacob Ksendzov, Edward Yi, Eric Park and Hysunsung Kim will look to account for the loss.
Yi, a sophomore, will take part in the 100 butterfly (sixth, 52.02) and 500 free (12th, 4:47.28), Ksendzov is set to compete in the breaststroke (11th, 1:00.11) and is an alternate for the 50 free (37th, 22.55), Park will look to pick up some points in the individual medley (23rd, 2:01.42) and Kim is seeded 23rd in the 100 butterfly (54.42).
Seo, Thai and Ksendzov will also likely participate in the 200-medley (second, 1:35.23) and 400-freestyle relays (second, 3:11.93), but Sakonju said the teams could be shifted into the 200-freestyle relay (11th, 1:29.88).
A lot has changed in a year for the Flintridge Prep boys’ swimming team. Fresh off a dominant run through the Prep League, the Rebels are looking to add to their hardware with a CIF crown in Division III.
“We want to go in, do our best and try to win,” said Flores, who’s ranked third in the 200 individual medley (2:01.02) and 100 breaststroke (1:01.12) and figures to play a big role in the respective second- and third-seeded 200-medley (1:40.71) and 400-freestyle relay (3:19.93) teams.
Bruce Park (18th, 1:52.21) and Gabriel Fernandez (36th, 1:55.15) will both swim the 200 freestyle. Park is also seeded seventh in the 100 butterfly (54.76) and Fernandez is 15th in the 500 freestyle (5:10.07).
Kevin Park will also compete in two events — the 200 individual medley (17th, 2:08.14) and 100 backstroke (12th, 57.57) — for Prep, which also has Carlo Sivilotti in the 50 freestyle (eighth, 22.42), William Newman in the back (22nd, 59.35) and as an alternate in the individual medley (2:13.35) and Gary Lee in the 100 freestyle (36th, 51.66).
“We knew coming down from Division II we were going to have a bit faster times, but we weren’t sure quite where we would be,” Goto said. “We knew we’d do rather well and have guys that can compete pretty well.”
After jumping 20 spots to a 14th-place finish in Division I last year, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy is looking to move up again into the top 10.
“We’re going to have seven to eight individual swims, at least two relays and a diver,” Sacred Heart Coach Steve Bergen said. “If we progress like we’ve been progressing and carry this into next week, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be top 10. We’re going to be a force next week.”
Kirsten Vose will lead the Tologs, who repeated as Mission League champions, again in her sophomore campaign. She is favored in the breaststroke (1:02.82) — an event she took runner-up in last year — and seeded third in the individual medley (2:03.94).
Sacred Heart is loading up in the breaststroke with freshman Kate Herrill (fourth, 1:03.76) and senior Emily Balog (22nd, 1:07.79) both swimming the event with Vose. Herrill is also ranked fifth in the 50 free (23.52) and Balog 29th in the individual medley (2:12.01).
Katie Altmayer will swim the 100 butterfly (eighth, 56.83) and 200 free (23rd, 1:54.57) for the Tologs, who have teams in the 200-freestlye (third, 1:36.95), 400-freestlye (21st, 3:40.40) and 200-medley (23rd, 1:52.67) relays.
While Crescenta Valley’s girls may not boast the boys’ depth, they will rely on junior leader Iva Icheva and immediate-impact freshmen Heather MacDougall and Tiare Coker at CIF to shoot up from their 16th-place finish a year ago.
“I am not quite sure how it will all look, but I think we should be able to go in there compete and contend for a championship,” first-year CV Coach Brent Danna said.
That trio accounts for five top-10 individual seedings. The Falcons are poised to have two high finishers in the 100 free where MacDougall is the top seed (51.10) and Coker is the seventh seed (52.75). MacDougall is also seeded third in the 200 individual medley (2:04.09), while Coker is ranked fourth in the 100 butterfly (57.24).
Icheva will compete in the 100 backstroke (fifth, 59.02) and 50 free (19th, 24.93). The trio will also be key in the 400- (third, 3:35.11) and 200-freestyle relays (14th, 1:42.33) for CV, which will also compete in the 200-medley relay (20th, 1:55.92).
The Flintridge Prep girls’ squad won’t likely contend for a CIF title, but Jennifer Langen will have a championship or two on her mind. The junior is seeded second in the 200 free (1:56.82) and ninth in the 100 free (54.95).
“I know there’s a lot of expectations but they’re not really worried about it,” Goto said of his top-seeded swimmers Flores and Langen. “They’re there to have fun and show what they can do.”
Lauren Au will also swim the 100 breast (25th, 1:15.60) for Prep and team with Langen in the 200-medley relay (30th, 2:04.91).