RIVERSIDE -- In one year, Kirsten Vose went from a contender to a favorite.
The Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy swimmer didn’t take to the role in the beginning of the CIF Southern Section Division I finals at Riverside City College Saturday, but she redeemed herself in her meet finale.
Behind Vose capturing her first CIF title in the 100-yard breaststroke and three inspired performances from Kate Herrill – one of which won the Tologs a 200-medley relay crown - the Tologs secured a seventh-place finish with 152 points.
While Sacred Heart didn’t realize its preseason goal of a top-five mark, it was still its best finish in Division I since being bumped up from Division II in 2009. J Serra won the meet with 243 points.
La Cañada just achieved its goal of staying in the top 10 Saturday with 98 points and a 10th-place finish. Capistrano Valley won the boys’ meet with 327 points.
“It’s a tough division, this is the fastest division, but overall the boys did a great job. Everybody came back and fought back as best as they could,” said Spartans Coach Art Lopez, whose team took sixth in Division I last year and fifth in 2011. “We maintained the goal of being in the top 10 that we talked about way back when, but it’s just so hard with our school being so small in this division.”
Nothing came easy for the Tologs, who hadn’t placed better than 14th in Division I the past four years, on Saturday.
Vose worked her way to top seeds in both her individual events, the 200-individual medley and breaststroke, but didn’t take to it right away in the medley, as she slipped to sixth.
“It was kind of hard to get into the mindset because I was so off in the IM,” said Vose, who endured two clock malfunctions on the block in the individual medley. “I just had to shake it off. … I think being the top seed kind of added more pressure than I was used to.”
The sophomore may have redeemed herself with a come-from-behind victory over University’s Maggie Burton Saturday, but it didn’t come easy.
Burton took a quick lead in the breast, holding a .63-of-a-second edge over Vose at the 25-yard mark. Vose rallied and hit a good final turn that put her neck-and-neck with the leader before narrowly passing her within the final strokes with a time of one minute, 2.57 seconds.
“I saw her at the 50 and I wanted it so bad, I just pushed as hard as I could to try to catch her,” said Vose, who edged Burton (1:02.85) by .28 of a second. “It feels really good, I knew it was going to be a really hard race because we’re all really fast.”
Vose, who swam the individual medley in 2:05.63, was also part of the Tologs’ 200-medley relay team, which included Herrill, Emily Balog and Katie Altmayer, that pulled off another inspired victory.
The Tologs found themselves in eighth place after the first 50, but overcame the sizable deficit to knock off top-seeded University.
“I know we all really wanted it for Emily and Katie, the upper classmen, even Kirsten and I really, really wanted that win,” Herrill said. “We were a little down, but they all swam great and I just needed it.”
Thankfully, Herrill had the opportunity to take it. The freshman was responsible for the anchor leg that eventually caught University. She got a great start off the block to shoot up to back near the top of the pack and a quality turn put her in the lead, allowing her to hold off University (second, 1:44.92) with a strong sprint down the final 25 yards, as the Tologs clocked in at 1:44.26.
“I was just really, ready to go and when I turned I saw I was a little ahead and I just needed to finish it,” said Herrill, who swam a 22.82 to University’s 24.02 anchor. “I had a great start and my underwaters got me up next to her, so it was just down to the race then.”
The same quartet took fourth in the 200-free relay (1:36.12).
Herrill later discarded her eighth seeds for an impressive fourth-place finish in the 50 free (23.66) and fifth-place ending in the breast (1:03.81), where Balog also took 18th (1:07.61).
Brandon Nguyen provided La Cañada’s top finishes, as he took sixth in the 200 individual medley (1:51.35) and seventh in the 100 breaststroke (57.02).
“In the 200 IM, I went my best time and you can’t go wrong with a best time,” said Nguyen, a senior who described his final CIF meet as bittersweet. “I’d have to say CIF is good not great.”
The La Cañada 200-medley relay team of Garrett Chin, Nguyen, Symeon Stefan and Peter Loakes took eighth (1:35.17).
Chin went on to finish ninth in the 100 backstroke (51.58) and 11th in the medley (1:52.73). Dane Bell and Matt Varraveto took 13th (4:34.28) and 17th (4:40.06), respectively, in the 500 free for the Spartans, whose 400-free relay team of Chin, Bell, Loakes and Nguyen took 15th (3:10.43).
Altmayer took 12th in the 100 butterfly (56.63) and 13th in the 200 free (1:52.05).