LA CAÑADA —When La Cañada High boys' swimming Coach Art Lopez looked at the 2013 Rio Hondo League schedule, he predicted the championship would all come down to Thursday's dual meet with San Marino.
While the Titans swam closer to the Spartans, whose two previous league wins came by at least 74 points, than any other team this year, the meet and perhaps the league title was never really in doubt, as La Cañada posted a 102-68 win at its home pool.
“I think our team’s a lot stronger this year than last year,” said La Cañada senior Brandon Nguyen, who helped the Spartans with four wins Thursday, while also acknowledging the loss of graduated senior Bo Mattix. “This year, I feel like we’re a lot stronger and have more motivation and we only lost one person, so we knew each other’s capabilities and what we can push each other toward.”
The Spartans, who are now 5-0, 3-0 in league, continued their Rio Hondo domination, as they racked up six CIF Southern Section Division I automatic and three other consideration times. Lopez stressed the amount of work that’s yet to be done in preparation for CIF.
“We have an opportunity to still improve coming off of spring break,” said Lopez, whose team needs to defeat Monrovia Thursday to ensure sole possession of the league title. “It’s jump-starting and getting back in rhythm. … We have a lot of work to do before CIF, but they did a great job today.”
Nguyen picked up a pair of individual automatic marks in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke in a minute 55.93 seconds and 59.77, respectively. The senior also added an automatic time of 1:37.96 in the 200-medley relay with Garrett Chin, Symeon Stefan and Peter Loakes to start the day.
Loakes, Chin, Nguyen and Dane Bell also won the last race of the day, the 400-freestyle relay, in 3:19.34. The Spartans swept the relays with Shane Bell, Matt Olson, Jeff Lee and Stefan taking the 200-freestyle relay in an automatic time of 1:34.56.
Bell also won two individual events in the 200 and 500 freestyles in 1:52.38 and 4:51.64, respectively, with the latter a consideration mark. Loakes set a personal best of 21.71 in the 50 free, which bested San Marino's Samuel To (22.69).
“I was really focusing on the 50,” said Loakes, who was just edged by San Marino's Daniel To (49.12) in the 100 free with his time of 49.61 good for second. “I’m just glad I got the auto. I really wanted it and it was my best time.”
La Cañada also benefited from a pair of second-place finishes from Chin in the 100 butterfly (52.41) and 100 backstroke (53.86).
San Marino (3-4, 2-1) was led by To, who also won the 100 backstroke in an automatic time of 53.11 after his consideration time in the 100 freestyle.
“Our main focus is to obviously try and win and do as well as we can,” To said. “I think we did better than we expected.”
Javier Lopez also won the 100 butterfly in 52.12 and took second in the 200 individual medley in 1:59.53 for the Titans, who also received a pair of runner-up finishes from Nathan Tsai in the 500 freestyle (4:52.87) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.94).
San Marino split the meet by winning the girls’ portion, 98-72, behind multi-win performances from sisters Kailyn and Eliza Koh.
“I actually thought it was going to be closer than it was,” said San Marino Coach Mark Barr, whose team improved to 3-4, 2-1. “Some of our second-tier girls actually swam really, really well. Our stronger girls also did what they were supposed to do.”
Eliza took the 200 individual medley (2:18.68) and 100 breaststroke (1:16.59), while Kailyn won the 50 and 100 freestyle races in 25.10 and 57.96, respectively.
“I was happy with the races, I wasn’t really focused on times, I was just focused on racing,” Kailyn said. “Hopefully, I’ll be faster when we taper.”
The Koh sisters also teamed with Alison Day and Tiffany Warmuth for a consideration time in the 200-freestyle relay (1:48.32) and with Warmuth and Asha Campbell for a win in the 400-freestyle relay (3:59.73).
The Titans’ other individual win came in the 200 freestyle (2:02.01) from Warmuth, who also took second in the 500 free (5:20.29).
The Spartans (1-4, 0-3) were in contention about halfway through the meet, as they trailed, 52-42, through five events, thanks to Samantha Campbell and Rachel Wong.
Wong won the 100 butterfly (1:05.41) and was runner-up in the 200 individual medley (2:19.70). Campbell won the 500 free in 5:19.52 and was runner-up in the 50 free (25.76).
“I just try to do the best I can and score as many points as I can because this is a big meet,” Wong said.
Campbell and Wong both teamed up with Caitlyn Seto and Shelby Hopkins, who also won the 100 backstroke (1:06.51), for a win in the 200-medley relay (2:02.32).