Success is bringing a whole new set of challenges for La Cañada High’s swim team, along with all the other squads in the Rio Hondo League.
Next year, the Spartans’ swim squad will be diving into the CIF Southern Section’s most competitive stage, Division I, and going against schools with much larger enrollments.
Top competitor Alex Campbell’s departure to the UC Santa Barbara won’t help either.
Campbell won the boys’ 100-yard freestyle at the Division II Championships with a time of 46.22. seconds. He also placed fourth in the 100 backstroke in 51.86 and led the Spartans’ 200- and 400-freestyle relay teams, which both placed in the top three in CIF.
“It is definitely going to leave a hole because he swam so many different events for us,” La Cañada Coach Art Lopez said. “It will hurt losing him. We are just going to have to really push the other kids this year.”
The major challenge will be going against the tough Orange County schools, many of which have student bodies in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, compared with La Cañada’s enrollment of 1,200 to 1,300.
“We don’t have the numbers to draw from,” Lopez said. “We may be small, but we have to dig. It will be a challenge, but we have the kids who can still place in the top.”
Lopez has done this all before, as high school swimming has proven to require adjustment.
Each year, Lopez must decide which swimmer is best suited for each event, and inevitably changes the team around to use their strengths.
Two years ago, Lopez pushed the squad to be stronger in the freestyle events, but now that group is just about gone.
“We have to push back and concentrate on the specialty events to help cover for what we’ve lost,” Lopez said. “It’s all strategy of deciding where you’re going to put everybody and knowing where your strengths and weaknesses are.”
Christian Renfro, an incoming senior, and Brandon Nguyen, a sophomore, will both have to play big roles next year.
Renfro took second in the 200 freestyle in CIF (1:41.55), was fourth in CIF 100 freestyle (46.77) and also raced in the 200- and 400-freestyle relays.
Nguyen placed fourth in the 200 IM at CIF (1:54.45), put up a time of 58.19 in the 100 breaststroke and competed in the 200-medley relay and 400-freestyle relay.
Even with all the changes coming, Lopez is focused on more important things for his squad.
“I try to do a balance of school and sports,” Lopez said.
Throughout the year, the coach likes to keep the amount of meets his team competes in low because most of his squad pulls double duty in water polo as well. He has his swimmers focus and train hard for three specific meets: a Palm Springs meet, the league meet and CIF.
“We try to keep it as low-key but hard-working,” Lopez said. “I want them to enjoy their school, home, friends and social life because they are still kids.”