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SAM GANGWER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
The top swimmers for Sonora High School, from left are, April Martinez, Jillian Jacobsen, Taylor Ault and Sarah Stacer.

Swim preview: Sonora improvement fuels excitement

STAFF WRITER

A swimming renaissance at a former North County powerhouse is generating excitement and higher expectations.

Sonora is again a viable contender in Orange County swimming thanks to the steady progress of sixth-year Coach Todd Jacobsen and the continued arrival of year-round club swimmers.

“It takes three or four years to build a culture and a program and now we’re getting a lot of kids coming here for swimming, so we’re starting to see the fruits of the labor,” said Jacobsen, a swimmer for Sonora in the early 1980s.

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More in the 2015 O.C  swimming preview:

Girls swimming preview: O.C. top 10 teams

Girls swimming preview: Top swimmers and divers

Boys swimming preview: O.C. top 10 teams

Boys swimming preview: Top swimmers and divers

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The Raiders had a streak of league titles in boys and girls swim in the early 1980s. Former county record-holder Darren Ward helped punctuate the run in the late ’80s.

The freshman foursome of Taylor Ault, Jillian Jacobsen (daughter of the coach), Sarah Stacer and April Martinez powered Sonora’s girls to a surprising fifth-place finish at last season's CIF-SS Division 2 finals.

Ault, a standout from the Armada club in La Mirada, captured the 200 and 500-yard freestyles and made the U.S. junior team over the summer in the 400-meter free.

With more freshmen girls from Armada set to contribute this spring, the Raiders are aiming for their first league title since 1984 and another high finish at CIF.

Defending Freeway League girls champion Troy looms as a major challenge, but Sonora is hoping to update the colorful record board above its the pool.

“We’re going to put numbers on the wall,” said Jillian Jacobsen, one of the team’s captains. “That’s our ultimate goal.”

In Division 2, Sonora will be among the teams contending with the Crean Lutheran girls, who enter the division after consecutive Division 3 crowns.

Martinez, a butterflier, believes the freshmen additions will be important but so will the team’s improved mental approach.

“Last year, we really worried about what we were doing,” Martinez said. “This year, we’re confident.”

Sonora also could see a surge from Stacer, a backstroker who was limited last season by a shoulder injury.

The Raiders’ boys program also welcomed freshman Simon Lamar, a rising distance swimmer from the FAST club. He raced at the junior world open water championships in September in Hungary.

Lamar teams with emerging Ben Blevins-Boor, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore who trains with the Irvine Novaquatics.

“We’re definitely going to have a good team for the next couple years,” Ault said.

Coach Jacobsen said he has focused on developing qualities such as discipline, integrity, respect and teamwork within the program. The Raiders also stress fun.

The team already wore Hippie outfits to its meet at La Serna of Whittier. Last season, the girls went ice skating after league finals.

“Todd was not happy,” Stacer said. “He said, ‘Don’t break anything.’ He was terrified.”

This spring, Sonora just hopes to break records.

NOTES

The inaugural CIF state swim and diving championship meet, May 22-23 in Clovis, is generating mixed reactions. Mission Viejo Nadadores club Bill Rose said he will advise his top swimmers not to participate because the meet will put extra pressure on the summer club season. …

Santa Margarita’s Grant Shoults won the 500 free in a club meet with the Nadadores in December in 4:17.52, less than a second off Olympian Larsen Jensen’s 2003 county record (4:16.93) for Mission Viejo.

Reigning county athlete of the year Katie McLaughlin of Santa Margarita was about a tenth off the county record in the 50 free at the same meet, blazing a 22.62. The Cal-bound senior owns county records in the 100 butterfly and 200 free. ...

Corona del Mar freshman Eva Merrell set a national age-group record last year in the 100 butterfly in the 13-14 age-group with a 53.19 for the Aquazot club. …

JSerra features two transfers in addition to Upland CIF champion Sonia Wang. Vanessa Tran and Sophia Perwas are from swim clubs in Germany, Lions coach Kevin Clements said.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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