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Diving into top CIF action

It’s all hands deck for the La Cañada High boys’ and girls’ swim teams this season, as they have made the jump from CIF Southern Section Division II to Division I.

The Spartans boys’ swimming Coach, Art Lopez, who’s entering his sixth season, knows it’s going to be a challenge competing against schools with significantly higher student populations than La Cañada.

“We don’t have the population base to really compete at the top spot for Division I, but we’re looking for a top-five or six finish and I think we can do that,” Lopez said. “Everyone has to play a role in that, and that’s the message we’ve gotten to them.”

Lopez is experimenting with all his pieces, shuffling athletes around in different events to see where they might make it into CIF competition, and where they’ll make the biggest splash.

“Basically what we’re trying to do is maximize our talent and see where we can get people into CIF at this point,” Lopez said. “We’re looking to cover our strengths and present three really strong relays.”

Christian Renfro, a senior who has already committed to Brown University, is returning to help the Spartans meet their goals. The beauty of Renfro is his versatility, Lopez said.

“He can move anywhere we need him too, but he will stick with 100 and 200 freestyles,” Lopez said.

Last year, Renfro took second in the 200 freestyle in CIF (1 minute 41.55 seconds), fourth in CIF 100 freestyle (46.77) and also competed in the 200- and 400-freestyle relays.

Sophomore Brandon Nguyen is also hopping back in the pool for La Cañada. He placed fourth in the 200 individual medley at CIF (1:54.45), put up a time of 58.19 in the 100 breaststroke and also swam with Renfro in the 200-medley and 400-freestyle relays.

Lopez is also looking for Garrett Chin, a freshman, to have an impact in the 500 freestyle or individual medley. Senior Matt Myers and junior Bo Mattix will be counted on to perform well in relays and help La Cañada make an impact in Division I.

“It’s a challenge, but we’re not going to whine or cry about it; we’re going to step up to the challenge and see what we can do,” Lopez said.

Meanwhile, first-year La Cañada girls’ swimming Coach Tiffany Quash has been preparing her swimmers for the next level, while also getting accustomed to running her own program for the first time.

“It’s really a dream come true. I kind of feel like I’m at Disneyland,” said Quash, who has also brought on assistant coach Katie Cocks, aSouth Pasadena grad familiar with Rio Hondo League, to help prepare for league.

La Cañada is looking to stay focused and take this season “one step at a time,” Quash said.

“I want to take the pressure off the new-division aspect and put the pressure on going out and doing our best,” Quash said.

Quash said it’s been a relief to step into a program filled with so much talent, like sisters Katy (a junior) and Sarah Campbell (freshman), Mackenzie Heaton (senior) and Sarah Olson (junior).

Katy will anchor La Cañada this season after earning two individual High School All-American honors from the National Scholastic Swimming Coaches Association last year for her performance in the 200 freestyle (1:49.71) and 500 freestyle (4:47.69), which were both All-Area bests.

She was also a member of the Spartan’s 200-yard freestyle relay team,which included Heaton, Olson and senior Meghan Fuelling. That team also took home an All-American honor after swimming the relay in 1:38.54 at the CIF Southern Section Division II Swimming Championships.

A major concern for Quash is preparing for next year in advance. She has plenty of talented upperclassmen but wants to make sure she has some freshmen and sophomores ready to fill their shoes after they’re gone.

“I want to prepare any of my girls to prepare to step into the leadership role,” Quash said. “I tell them to swim smart and swim hard. It really is about focus, to be honest, and not letting the competition scare you.”