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KYUSUNG GONG , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Santa Margarita's Grant Shoults is looking forward to his showndown with Capistrano Valley senior Nick Norman in the 500-yard freestyle at the CIF-SS Division 1 finals on Saturday in Riverside.

Friendly rivals could turn in thriller in 500 freestyle

STAFF WRITER

RIVERSIDE - Swimming fans sometimes visit the concessions or restrooms during the distance events, but that would be unwise Saturday night when the finals of the boys 500-yard freestyle arrives at the CIF-SS Division 1 meet.

On a night full of record-setting promise, fans should tune in to see if Capistrano Valley’s Nick Norman and Santa Margarita’s Grant Shoults thrust themselves into the spotlight at Riverside City College.

Two boys dipping under the 2000 Division 1 record in the 500 might do the trick.

“We don’t get much love,” Norman said for his fellow distance swimmers. “The 500 is the fastest it’s ever been. … It’s going to be really exciting.”

The meet starts at 5 p.m.

Norman, the defending champion, qualified first for the final with a time of 4 minutes, 20.57 seconds, just over a second off Ian Prichard’s 2000 record for Buena of Ventura (4:19.34).

Shoults qualified second in 4:21.04 but owns a lifetime-best well-below the Division 1 record. He blazed a 4:17.52 in a club meet in December, just off Olympian Larsen Jensen’s Orange County record of 4:16.93 for Mission Viejo in 2003.

Servite’s Stephen Marcin also could be a factor. The senior qualified third in 4:22.43, about two seconds ahead of another contender, Shane Forker of Dana Hills.

Part of the intrigue with Norman and Shoults is that they’re friendly rivals and teammates with the Mission Viejo Nadadores.

Norman, a senior bound for Cal, said he is happy that Shoults entered the 500 because he knows he will be pushed. Shoults, a junior, said he picked the 500 because he hasn’t raced the event at CIF since his freshman year.

“It’s going to be an awesome race,” Shoults said. “We’re definitely going to feed off each other.”

DORSAL DASH

The boys backstroke is another intriguing Division 1 final.

The top-three seeds - University’s Daniel Tran (48.89), San Clemente’s Josh Swart (48.91) and Edison’s Thomas Smith (49.13) - rank as three of the six fastest backstrokers in county history.

“We’ve kind of all grown up racing guys who are older, so now being the seniors, it’s our turn to put on a show,” the LSU-bound Smith said.

DIV. 1 TEAM RACE

Based on a scoring of the prelims, including diving, Santa Margarita’s defending Division 1 girls project to score 290 points to outdistance JSerra (256) Woodbridge (215), Tesoro (194) and Corona del Mar (174) for the title Saturday night, according to a girls coach.

On the boys side, defending Division 1 champion University projects to score 340 points to outdistance Loyola of Los Angeles (266), Dana Hills (219), San Clemente (195) and Corona del Mar (175), according to a boys coach.

AIDAN STRONG

University’s boys were motivated at the Pacific Coast League finals by freshman breaststroker Aidan Yong, who recently overcame a health scare. Yong was hospitalized with a bacteria infection in his brain but is recovering with therapy, his father, Wayne, said.

Yong missed the league meet but attended the Division 1 prelims and spent time with teammates. His brother, Matt, is on the University team.

The Trojans wrote the letters “AY” on their bodies during the league meet.

Breaststroker Christopher Havton is a University boy to watch in the finals. The UNLV-bound senior has triplet brothers, who are sophomores, on the team and he has earned a silver for Sweden at the Nordic Youth Championships.

STAR GAZING

Swimmers who achieve a qualifying time are eligible to race in next week’s inaugural state meet in Fresno. The two biggest Division 1 stars, Katie McLaughlin of Santa Margarita and Abbey Weitzeil of Saugus, said they won’t be attending.

Weitzeil is the former American record holder in the 100 free (46.29 in December) but doesn’t believe she can recapture her title today (46.09 is the new record).

“Probably not,” she said during prelims. “I was fully tapered for (the record in December). I’m not tapered for this. (The record) would be great but I wouldn’t count on it.”

The six-dive competition for spots in the state meet starts today at 1:30 p.m.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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