Northwood's 400 free relay, from left, of Hwa Min Sim, Henry Wu, Gabriel Munoz and Hunter Hitchens finished first to seal an 86-84 win at Corona del Mar on Wednesday.

Hitchens provides huge lift as Northwood boys slip past CdM


NEWPORT BEACH Hunter Hitchens waited about a year for Wednesday to arrive.

The Northwood sophomore swimmer didn’t let the opportunity at Corona del Mar slip away.

He reeled it in.

In his first meet of the season, Hitchens rallied from a body-length deficit going into his anchor leg in the 400-yard freestyle relay to bring his team to the wall first, lifting the No. 4 Timberwolves past the No. 5 Sea Kings, 86-84, in the Pacific Coast League.

Northwood’s girls defeated Corona del Mar, 95-75, to give eighth-year coach Alex Nieto his first victory against the Sea Kings.

Last week, the Corona del Mar-University boys meet also was decided by the 400 free relay.

On Wednesday, Northwood and Corona del Mar were locked, 78-78, after the 100-yard breaststroke, sending students from both schools to the far end of the pool to cheer the final event.

The Sea Kings’ 400 relay took about a 1½-second lead into the anchor, but Hitchens split a 46.10 to out-touch Tanner Roletter by just under half-a-second. Hitchens teamed with sophomores Hwa Min Sim, Henry Wu and Gabriel Munoz (47.24) to stop the clock in a season-best 3 minutes, 11.79 seconds.

“I’ve just been getting ready, excited to swim, counting down the days and it finally came,” said Hitchens, who had not been able to race due to a CIF-SS eligibility issue. “I’ve been waiting so long. This is kind of my chance to perform, show what I got. … It was definitely worth the wait.”

In a meet with little room for error, Hitchens also anchored Northwood to a victory in the 200 free relay, splitting a 21.39 to bring the Timberwolves to the wall in a season-best 1:28.03. Corona del Mar touched in 1:28.48.

The Irvine Novaquatics club swimmer also won the 200 (1:42.24) and 500 (4:45.96) freestyles, joining Munoz (200 individual medley, 100 butterfly) as a double-winner.

“Amazing debut,” Nieto said of Hitchens. “He really does know how to come through for his teammates.”

Corona del Mar raced without the injured Tim Hanson. The Sea Kings clocked a season-best 3:12.23 in the 400. In the breaststroke, Corona del Mar sophomores Ryan Schildwachter (59.42), Hayden Roletter (1:04.46) and Jacob Humbert (1:04.64) dropped time to place first, fourth and fifth to tie the meet score at 78.

“The guys are swimming well,” Corona del Mar coach Barry O’Dea said.

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