Crean Lutheran's 400-yard free relay, from left, of Brittany Kampfer, Tianna Jorgenson, Emily Eastin and Elise Garcia qualified first in prelims at the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday at Clovis West. The team clocked a 3:27.33.

Crean Lutheran girls in contention for state title (updated)


FRESNO – Crean Lutheran’s girls freely dove into the treacherous waters Friday, knowing that Orange County was outnumbered and needed to be fast to survive.

The Saints didn’t cringe, and they weren’t alone.

Led by Crean Lutheran sprinter Elise Garcia and distance ace Brittany Kampfer, the county attacked the prelims session of the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships at Clovis West High.

By the time the competition pool settled, the county not only had a battled-tested group for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. finals, it featured a team title contender in the Crean Lutheran girls.

“We can win,” Saints coach Craig Brown said after his 400-yard freestyle relay of Kampfer, Tianna Jorgenson, Emily Eastin and Garcia qualified first in 3 minutes, 27.33 seconds. “This is the state meet … Come after it.”

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Seven O.C. swimmers and three relays qualified for the top-eight championship finals. A majority of Orange County’s qualifiers passed on the meet because of their focus on the U.S. Olympic Trials or club competition.

Newport Harbor’s boys 400 freestyle relay qualified fifth from a No. 15 seed. The team of Sawyer Farmer, Jason Grew, Reece Hemmens and Nick Halphide clocked a 3:07.74.

"I added a bunch (of time) - they all dropped," Farmer said of his relay mates. "The definitely stepped up."

Mater Dei’s girls medley relay, the Division 1 runner-up, won a three-way swim-off at the end of the meet for the No. 7 seed in the final. In her fifth swim of the session, Aislinn Light split a 25.50 leadoff in the backstroke and teamed with Lauren Openshaw, Brianna Buckle and anchor Kayla Constandse to hold off Terra Linda of San Rafael and San Marcos with a time of 1:45.21.

“You just have to tough it out,” Mater Dei coach Ken Dory said.

Garcia highlighted the county performances by qualifying first in the 50 freestyle in a lifetime-best and state-meet record 22.64. The sophomore jumped to No. 2 in county history behind former Crean Lutheran swimmer of the year Lindsey Engel (22.53), now at Stanford.

“We’re really stepping it up, especially Brittany,” Garcia said of Kampfer, who narrowly missed the state meet record in the 500 free with a lifetime-best 4:47.00. "She's not even rested at all."

The county’s other top-eight finalists are Eastin and Crean Lutheran’s Kevin Chao, Light and Monarchs teammate Christian Hockenbury and Sunny Hills’ Courtney Tseng.

The prelims session saw five other records fall and a lifetime-best leadoff (19.95) from Maxime Rooney of Granada in the 200 free relay.

The county’s other top-eight finalists are Eastin (butterfly/back) and Crean Lutheran’s Kevin Chao (500 free), Light (100 back) and teammate Christian Hockenbury (50/100 free) and Sunny Hills’ Courtney Tseng (500 free).

"It's fast," Eastin said of the meet. "We swam well here last year. We wanted to come back and do it again."

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