Kennedy junior Rodrigo Baca qualified first in the 100 butterfly at the CIF-SS Division 3 prelims on Wednesday.

Cypress, Kennedy share in the good times at prelims


RIVERSIDE - Cypress and Kennedy’s rival swim teams peacefully shared a bus Wednesday for their trek to and from the CIF-SS Division 3 prelims.

Yes, the swimmers chatted loudly during the ride but arrived at Riverside City College without conflict, each in one piece. They’ve actually been ride-sharing to the finals for the last few years.

“It’s weird because (people) say we have a rivalry,” Cypress senior Nathan Panter said. “(But) we have our best relationships with that school. It’s kind of cool.”

Once qualifying for Thursday’s 5 p.m. finals started, Cypress and Kennedy took their separate lanes but still found time to encourage each other, too. And for the Empire League boys, there was plenty to cheer.

From a swim-off victory by Kennedy’s Akili Allen in the 50-yard freestyle to four school records set by the Cypress boys, the Empire paced Orange County.

Kennedy junior Rodrigo Baca qualified first for the 100 butterfly finals from the No. 4 slot by clocking a time of 51.42 seconds. Teammate Zachary Minott qualified seventh (53.08) as the No. 18 seed.

Allen, a sophomore, used a strong finish to out-touch senior Artyem Shander of Rio Mesa of Oxnard in a swim-off for the ninth and final spot in the 50 final. Allen was seeded 11th and cheered on by Cypress and Kennedy swimmers.

“We’re best friends out of the pool, competitors in the pool,” Cypress senior Luis Malpica said of Kennedy.

Allen said the swim-off was nerve-racking but his cheering section helped him navigate the race. He clocked a lifetime-best 21.95 to win by about a tenth of a second.

Cypress set school records in the 200 free (William Nguyen, 1:45.64 for fifth), 100 butterfly (Malpica, 54.39 for 14th) and in the 200 (1:30.24 for fourth) and 400 (3:16.24) free relays. The 400 qualified second from the 10th seed.

“Perfect taper,” Cypress coach Darren Sandvig said.

Cypress’ 400 also qualified two spots ahead of Kennedy (3:16.55).

“There’s going to be some trash-talking on the bus,” Kennedy co-coach Eric Corona said with a smile.

Pacifica’s Aaron Bauer and Valencia’s Jacob Christensen also blazed. The Redlands-bound Bauer qualified second in the 50 (21.63) and 100 (47.45) freestyles while Christensen claimed the No. 3 spot in the breaststroke (59.33).

Saddleback Valley Christian’s Casey Cunningham paced the county girls by qualifying second in the 500 free (5:06.55) and third in the 200 free (1:54.80).

The Division 4 boys shredded the record book in their prelims, setting seven records.

Fairmont Prep’s Edgar Chin hopes to join the club during Friday’s 5 p.m. finals. The junior from Rowland Heights’ Trident club qualified first in 57.54, just over half-a-second off the Division 4 record (56.87).

“I’m really hoping I can break the record,” said Chin, the defending champion.

La Quinta’s sixth-seeded girls medley relay was disqualified for an early jump but freshman Catherine Tran qualified sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:18.45) and eighth in the back (1:03.67).

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