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Shoults accepts challenge, leads Santa Margarita to title
Grant Shoults approached a daunting test Saturday with the gusto of a swimmer not only used to navigating painful waters, but one who welcomes that course.
Santa Margarita High coaches Rich and Ron Blanc set the stage, assigning their Stanford-bound senior to three consecutive events as the Eagles played host to the annual California Catholic Challenge.
In a span of about 50 minutes in a trunks suit, Shoults raced the 100-yard freestyle, 500 freestyle and anchored the 200 free relay.
He dueled against Mater Dei’s rising junior Christian Hockenbury in two of the races, adding stress to a morning that included a 5,000-meter club workout earlier with the Mission Viejo Nadadores.
Shoults responded by winning his individual races in meet-record and county-leading times and lifting the Eagles to a relay victory that helped them outdistance No. 1 Mater Dei for the team title.
He then provided a glimpse into his mindset.
“That was pretty gnarly,” he said of the triple. “At (the) Nadadores, we train for stuff like that. … It was a painful memory but I think I did alright with it, so I wouldn’t mind doing that again.
“I know that I’ll be fatigued when I do these doubles and triples … but I’m not afraid of it. I’ll attack it and see what I can do with it. There have been times that it’s just not my day but personally, I feel I’ve been progressing when it comes to these.”
Shoults used a strong final two laps to outdistance Hockenbury by just over half-a-second to capture the 100 free in 45.89 seconds.
He then won the 500 free, his county-record event, by almost 22 seconds with sizzling 4:23.37. Shortly after the 20-lap race, he ran to check his schedule and split a 21.04 to hold off Hockenbury (20.96) to bring the Eagles’ 200 free relay to the wall in a meet-record 1:28.65. The Monarchs touched in 1:28.70.
Second-ranked Santa Margarita finished with 521.5 points to dethrone defending champion Mater Dei at 498.
Alexander Qu supported Shoults by winning the 200 individual medley (1:55.38) and 100 breaststroke (58.80) in meet records while Kyle Monteleone, freshman Kevin Tu (47.37) and Marc Morizono (47.63) teamed with Shoults (47.30) for a meet-record 3:13.23 triumph in the 400 free relay.
Tu (52.44) also won the backstroke while Morizono finished second in the 500 free with a 4:45.34.
It was a record-setting day for the boys. The meet saw nine of the 11 boys records fall.
Santa Margarita’s No. 2 girls used their depth to claim their seventh straight title despite being less than full-strength. The Eagles scored 501 points to outdistance Archbishop Mitty of San Jose.
"Just a lot of teamwork," Rich Blanc said. "We had three or four JV girls come up and they placed in the Top 16 and scored points."
Isa Odgers won the 200 individual medley (2:07.65) and breaststroke (1:05.82) for the Eagles while third-place Mater Dei received a double from Aislinn Light in the 100 free (51.96) and 100 back (55.92).
Light was surprised by her season-best times in her top-two events.
"I was surprised just because we're in the middle of training," she said. "Coming into this meet not tapered, (those times) are really good."
The Cal-bound Light also helped Mater Dei capture the medley relay (meet-record 1:48.85) and 400 free relay (3:36.10). She split a 51.13 anchor in the 400 free in teaming with Brianna Buckle, Kayla Constandse (54.34) and Stephanie Su (53.48) for the victory.
Su, a freshman, also broke five-minutes in the 500 free with a first-place touch of 4:59.46.
At the Kennedy Invitational:
Woodbridge swept the title while Fountain Valley’s Shayla Erickson out-touched Woodbridge’s Molly McCance by one one-hundredth of a second to win the 100 butterfly in a meet-record 58.53. Woodbridge's Sydney Okubo captured the 200 individual medley (2:10.48) and breaststroke (58.78) in meet records.