Disappointing final chapter for Crescenta Valley High swimming seniors

RIVERSIDE — There’s little the Crescenta Valley High boys’ swimming team was unable to accomplish during the high school careers of Young Tae Seo and Harrison Thai.

One thing the Falcons and their two standout seniors couldn’t do, however, was go out with a second straight championship on Saturday at the CIF Southern Section Division II meet at Riverside City College.

PHOTOS: CIF Southern Section Division II swimming final

Try as it might, CV couldn’t climb the uphill challenge it was dealt in a deeper Los Osos team that won six events and set three Division II meet records in the process. The Grizzlies racked up 285 points that were enough to hold off the Falcons (234).

“Los Osos positioned themselves very well,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju, as the Grizzlies carried three more swimmers into championship races than CV, 8-5. “They certainly earned it, they swam so well.”

Though Thai and Seo were denied repeat championships — as the Falcons won their first title in 12 years last year with a 301-293 win over Damien — they can take comfort in the fact they led the Falcons to team finishes in the top two in each of the last three seasons.

While Seo couldn’t go out celebrating, he still had a historic day with an individual victory and meet record in the 200-yard individual medley and 200-medley relay victory and record, which were the only Falcons boys’ wins on the day. On the girls’ side, Crescenta Valley freshman Heather MacDougall made a phenomenal debut in capturing the 100 freestyle.

Seo took a slight, early lead in the butterfly, before falling behind top-seeded Daniel McArthur (1:49.53) of Lakewood in the backstroke and eventually taking a body-length lead in the breaststroke. His time of one minute, 47.80 seconds updated his Division II meet record.

“That’s what I always try to do, pull from the breaststroke. I am happy breaking the record, but I could have done better, it’s not my best time,” said Seo, whose previous record of 1:48.38 was set in 2011. “I knew he wasn’t a breaststroker, so I knew that’s the only way I could beat him.”

McArthur was runner-up about two seconds behind Seo in 1:49.53 to edge Thai, who clocked in .51 of a second after (1:49.94) for third.

In the first race of the day, Seo and Thai teamed with Edward Yi and Jacob Ksendzov to update a 200-medley relay record with a 1:33.39 mark that edged second-place Lakewood nearly by a full second (1:34.47). Crescenta Valley also owned that record, as Thai and Seo set it with Andrew De Jong and Louis Wojciechowski.

“We weren’t really thinking about the record, we just wanted to kick [Lakewood’s] butts,” Ksendzov said. “That’s what it’s about, making sure we beat the guys next to us.”

Los Osos had double winners in Kyle Coan and Michael Forbes, who also teamed for a victory in the 400-free relay in a record time 3:04.14. CV’s Seo, Thai, Yi and Eric Park took second in 3:08.95.

In what was one of the most dramatic races Saturday, Seo came up just short in the 100 breaststroke (55.25) to top-seeded Zachary Stevens (55.13) of Arroyo Grande. Seo trailed Stevens by .01 of a second after the first 50 — a deficit he could never make up, as Stevens updated a meet record he’d set in prelims Friday.

Thai (50.24) was edged by McArthur (49.21) in the 100 backstroke, but still edged Los Osos’ Nick Bell (51.01) for second place.

Long after the competition pool had cleared, an emotional group of Thai, Seo, Yi and Park stayed in the water, with the seniors clearly disappointed with their final chapter of high school swimming.

“They have to look at their careers, of course at this moment it’s going to be tough because of the emotion,” Sakonju said. “It does not tarnish their legacy at all and their legendary status. Ten years from now people will be talking about the two of them and what happens once they graduate, the legends get even greater, where Harrison and Young Tae are these 6-foot-4 monsters that swam on top of the water.”

After taking 16th a year ago, the Crescenta Valley girls jumped all the way to fifth with 159 points, thanks to standout freshmen MacDougall, Tiare Coker and returning junior Iva Icheva. Troy won the title with 207 points.

“It’s definitely a good start, the Rose Bowl Aquatics Swim Club definitely provided us with firepower to compete this year,” first-year CV Coach Brent Danna said of his freshmen. “Unfortunately, we weren’t deep enough, but with three individual girls scoring and then two relays scoring, a fifth-place finish is pretty impressive.”

MacDougall added to her phenomenal freshman campaign with a victory in the 100 freestyle in photo finish with Ayala’s Kenisha Liu. MacDougall trailed Liu nearly the entire race with the fellow freshmen clocking in at 24.66 and 24.22, respectively, after the first 25 yards.

“I just wanted to win so bad and I was really upset over my two IM because I added a lot of time,” said MacDougall, who took fourth in the individual medley (2:06.26) after adding more than a second to her prelim time.

MacDougall was still trailing after 50 and didn’t pull ahead until the final two or three strokes. Her time of 50.92 was .18 of a tick faster than Liu (51.10).

“I actually had no idea [I’d won], I was just really praying that I did,” MacDougall said. “In the last 15, I saw in the corner of my eye she was like right with me and I was like, ‘Oh, my god, we’re so close.’ It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed that race.”

The Falcons had another win slip through their fingers in the 400-free relay. Coker shot CV out to a five-plus second lead with a 51.40, but the Falcons couldn’t match that pace and found themselves trailing by more than two seconds in the final 100 before taking third (3:31.28).

In addition for the boys, Yi took fourth in the butterfly (50.67) and 11th in the 500 free (4:44.27). The Falcons’ 200-free relay team of Stephen Woo, Eric Park, Antonio Camarillo and Ksendzov took fifth (1:27.58).

Park took 14th in the individual medley (2:01.28), and Ksendzov was 12th in the 100 breaststroke (59.86) and 14th in the 50 free (22.10).

For the girls, Coker took sixth in the 100 free (52.11). Earlier in the day, she swam the butterfly in 57.42 for another sixth-place finish.

The Falcons’ 200-medley relay team held an early lead but lost it in the last 100 as MacDougall, Coker, Icheva and Jesse Gabor took third (1:48.12). Less than a second separated CV from Palm Springs (1:47.88) and Chaparral (1:48.01) and the victory.

Icheva was eighth in the 100 backstroke (1:00.02) and 14th in the 50 free (24.95).

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