Tyler Lin of Corona del Mar cuts through the water as he competes in his prelim at the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday.

O.C. swimmers positioned for impact at state finals


FRESNO - Orange County’s small but determined fleet of swimmers had its reasons Friday for arriving at the inaugural CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships.

JSerra’s Kaitlyn Albertoli came for a chance to race after a health scare last week. Teammate Karli Thuen wanted another attempt at improving her times.

Corona del Mar’s Tyler Lin came on a quest to make state history.

And Crean Lutheran’s Ella Eastin and Newport Harbor’s Hayden Hemmens raced out of loyalty and affection for their teammates.

The reasons were different, but the race results carried a distinct thread by the end of the prelims session at Clovis West High. The swimmers were all fast and positioned for a memorable final Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Crean Lutheran coach Craig Brown said. “The memories.”

Related: Top-8 results, O.C. finishes from prelims

Related: Fairmont Prep's Lee takes 8th in girls diving

Many of Orange County’s top swimmers declined invitations to race here, but JSerra and Crean Lutheran girls used full-force lineups to emerge as contenders with San Ramon Valley and Granite Bay for the team title.

A breathing issue knocked Albertoli out of last weekend’s CIF-SS Division 1 final, but the Stanford-bound senior returned Friday to qualify second in the 50-yard freestyle in a county-leading 22.89 seconds and clocked the fastest time in the 100 free with a 50.20.

“I was just stoked to be here and be able to swim,” said Albertoli, who also helped the Lions qualify first in the 200 medley relay (1:43.99).

“For me not being able to race my best at CIF (and) to be able to come here and get another opportunity was really exciting.”

Like Albertoli, Thuen’s times were faster than the ones she clocked at the Division 1 finals. The Arizona-bound senior surprised herself by slicing just over a second off her entry time in the 200 individual medley to qualify second to Eastin with a 2:00.46.

The Stanford-bound Eastin, racing with a cut on her hand, grabbed the top spot with a 1:58.44.

Thuen also qualified second in the 500 free with a lifetime-best 4:49.80, a three-second drop from Division 1.

“For me, CIF was slightly disappointing,” she said. “That’s the great part about state. … If you’re not OK with CIF, you have a second chance.”

Eastin raced with glue on the web of her right hand after an accidental cut required four stitches.

“I’m just dealing with it,” said Eastin, who also qualified second in the breaststroke with a 1:02.11. “If it were just me (in this meet), I probably wouldn’t be here. … But since it’s my last year and we’re up there in points, it’s definitely worth it.”

Crean (3:27.52) and JSerra (3:27.79) qualified first-second, respectively, in the girls 400 free relay.

Hemmens combined with teammates Dominik Folkner, Jason Trzeciecki and Sawyer Farmer to claim a pair of fifth seeds in the 200 (1:25.44) and 400 (3:06.36) freestyle relays.

“I’m glad these guys are on my relay,” Hemmens said. “These guys have been with me for three years minimum.”

Beckman's 200 free relay qualified sixth with a 1:25.45, just one one hundredth of a second behind Newport Harbor.

Lin tied Hank Poppe of San Ramon Valley for the No. 1 seed in the breaststroke with a 55.03. Poppe, a junior, raced in the heat before Lin. “I just wanted to be state champ,” the Princeton-bound Lin said of his motivation to attend state.

“If I win, then I’m the state record-holder because it’s the first year, so it’s kind of cool.”

Friday's prelims ended with a sizzling time from junior Maxime Rooney of Granada in Livermore. Rooney led off the 400 relay with a 43.58. The national record, however, is more than a second faster at 42.34 by David Nolan in 2011.

Crean Lutheran freshman Elise Garcia produced her own impressive relay split. She used her strong kick to blaze a 22.63 anchor split in the 200 free to help the Saints qualify ninth, one spot shy of the top-eight final.

In the boys competition, two-time defending North Coast Section champion Northgate is a team to watch, especially in the 400 and medley relays. Northgate qualified first in the medley relay with a 1:30.84 and 400 with a 3:02.22.

"They were focused on this as soon as the meet was announced," Northgate coach Jeff Mellinger said of his swimmers.

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