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MILKA SOKO , CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Laguna Beach's Erik Juliusson reacts after finishing first during the CIF-SS Division 2 preliminaries 200-yard IM at Riverside City College on Friday.

Crean, Laguna Beach poised to contend in Div. 2

STAFF WRITER

RIVERSIDE - Crean Lutheran’s girls and Laguna Beach’s boys encountered all the challenges they could handle Friday as they migrated up the Southern Section swimming stream.

The Division 2 prelims were blanketed by steady rain and cool temperatures at Riverside City College. The competition in the pool wasn’t any kinder.

Crean Lutheran’s girls and Laguna Beach’s boys raced in the notoriously quick Division 2 after moving from the friendlier confines of Division 3.

But by the time the sun popped out late in the session, Crean Lutheran’s girls and Laguna Beach’s boys both emerged as title contenders for Saturday’s 10 a.m. finals.

It won’t be easy, especially for the Crean Lutheran girls, who are coming off consecutive Division 3 crowns. Based on a scoring of prelims, defending champion Glendora holds a slight lead on the Saints.

“Our relays are really close but we’ll see what happens,” Crean Lutheran freshman sprinter Elise Garcia said. “We’re excited. We’re ready to go because we’re all tapered and rested. We just want to go fast.”

Garcia was fast Friday. She qualified first in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.25 seconds and also grabbed the top spot in the 100 free with a lifetime-best 50.60.

Sisters Ella and Emily Eastin claimed Crean Lutheran’s other top seeds. Ella qualified first in the 200 individual medley (2:01.37) and breaststroke (1:03.28) while Emily clocked the fastest time in the backstroke (54.97).

Glendora qualified first in the medley (1:47.32) and 200 free (1:37.35) relays while the Saints secured the top seed in the 400 free relay (3:31.68).

Crean Lutheran coach Craig Brown said his relay lineups would be adjusted for finals but also stressed depth in individual events Saturday. He said depth is what makes Division 2 tougher to navigate.

“If you don’t bring it (in prelims), you’re not coming back,” he said. “You’re a second off, you’re history.”

Laguna Beach’s boys surfaced as title contenders by qualifying all three of its relays for finals. The Breakers’ 400 relay of Max Morgan, Cade Baldridge, Cameron Karkoska and Erik Juliusson posted the fastest time with a school-record 3:08.03.

The Breakers’ depth showed in the 200 free relay as water polo players Nolan Del Toro, Billy Renner, Jack Dodson and Baldridge combined to qualify eighth in 1:28.81.

“We’re in a really good position,” Laguna Beach coach Beth Weber said. “If they swim even faster (Saturday), we definitely have a chance at the win.”

Laguna Beach finished second in Division 3 last season. The Breakers' top competition could come from Murrieta Valley and Santiago of Corona, Weber said.

Laguna Beach's strength also emerged in the 200 individual medley. Juliusson (1:48.64), Karkoska (1:52.18) and Morgan (1:55.13) qualified first-third-seventh. The Purdue-bound Juliusson later qualified second in the backstroke (50.37) to Division 2 record-holder Daniel McArthur of Lakewood (49.02).

“There’s definitely more competition (in Division 2),” Juliusson said. “I like it.”

The breaststroke could be another strong event for Laguna Beach. Karkoska and Morgan qualified first-second.

Sonora sophomore Taylor Ault grabbed a top seed, clocking a 4:53.54 in the 500 free. Ault is the defending champion in the 200 and 500 freestyles.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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