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State title brings tears of joy, sadness for Crean Lutheran girls (video)
FRESNO – With the final challenge conquered, Crean Lutheran’s girls 400-yard freestyle relay gathered near its lane Saturday night and let the emotions of a four-year journey flow.
Seniors Brittany Kampfer, Tianna Jorgenson, Emily Eastin and sophomore Elise Garcia were state team champions and crying tears of joy and sadness.
“I kind of started that cry-fest,” Eastin, the captain, said after Crean Lutheran captured its first title at the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships at Clovis West.
“It just hit me it was not only the last relay but my last high school swim, Eastin said. “And to do it with two other seniors and Elise, that was so amazing. … You don’t realize how much you love something until it’s over.”
Katina Young and Maye Andarza soon joined their Crean Lutheran teammates, and Coach Craig Brown’s close-knit team known for overcoming obstacles grew even closer.
“It’s just so important to have that support for each other and I think it’s the reason why we’ve been so successful,” said Young, also a senior.
Crean Lutheran finished third in the 400 free relay en route to 147 points, which outdistanced runner-up Palo Alto at 135. Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills won the boys title.
The Saints rebounded from a narrow runner-up finish last season to JSerra to capture a meet that based on the psych sheet, they weren’t supposed to. They followed a similar script to out-duel Glendora for their second consecutive CIF-SS Division 2 title.
But Crean Lutheran has a history of maneuvering obstacles. The program has replaced stars such as Lindsey Engel and Ella Eastin, now at Stanford. The duo sent their old school a motivation video before Saturday's finals.
The Saints also watched Young overcome a swollen eye on the eve of the finals and newcomer Kampfer blend with new teammates.
“We had to overcome a lot this season and we fought really hard,” Jorgenson said.
Brown added, "Perseverance. We had a lot of tough stuff to get through and came back. We were down 37 (points) coming to this meet. We were down 24 going into CIF."
Garcia delivered the county’s lone individual title by capturing the 50 free in 22.75 seconds, just off her state meet record in prelims.
But the Saints also placed Garcia, Eastin and Kampfer in two championship finals apiece and scored points in all three relays with contributions from Jorgenson, Young and Andarza.
“It shows all of our hard work and how much everybody has put into it,” said Kampfer, who placed third in the 500 free (4:47.95).
Courtney Tseng of Sunny Hills emerged as the county’s breakout performer. The junior finished a narrow second in the 500 free in a lifetime-best and county-leading 4:46.87. Racing in Lane 7, she dropped just over six seconds and nearly touched out meet record-holder Miranda Heckman of Granada (4:46.45).
“I don’t know if she saw me but I saw her,” Tseng said. “I didn’t really expect to win that but I’m just happy I got second.”
Mater Dei’s Christian Hockenbury capped his breakthrough season by touching second in the 50 free in 20.55, validating his Division 1 title of 20.47.
“Those are times that I won’t have even dreamed about going into the season but coming out they feel really good,” said the junior, who placed behind Albert Gwo of NorCal’s Los Altos (20.07).
Hockenbury was disqualified in the 100 free finals for moving at the start but teammate Aislinn Light placed fourth in the backstroke in a swift 54.31.
Mater Dei's girls medley relay tied for sixth at 1:45.76 while Newport Harbor's boys 400 free relay also took sixth in 3:07.08. Crean Lutheran's Kevin Chao placed seventh in the boys 500.
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