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O.C. attendance again low at state swim meet
Crean Lutheran coach Craig Brown believes there is just one Orange County swimmer who qualified for the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships who shouldn’t be in Fresno for the meet this weekend.
“Probably Grant Shoults,” he said of the Santa Margarita senior, who set two national high school records last weekend at the CIF-SS Finals and will not race in Fresno.
“If you have a shot at making the Olympic team, then you should stay home and train. He’s the only one. To take another week off and rest is truly not going make the difference.”
For the second consecutive May, the vast majority of Orange County’s qualifiers see it differently and have chosen to skip the state competion.
The county will again be represented by a small but intriguing group at the meet, which runs Friday and Saturday at Clovis West High.
Some of the county’s top swimmers at the CIF-SS Finals said they would pass on the state meet to focus on next month’s U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., or to prepare for the Speedo Grand Challenge in Irvine on Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s ridiculous,” Brown said. “It’s a great meet and it’s totally supported by Northern and Central California. … How many state meets are you ever going to swim in?”
SOCAL is one of the few O.C. club teams with top swimmers in Fresno. Coach Stephen Pickell believes his swimmers will be able to race fast this weekend and at the Olympic Trials.
“One, they’re sprinters, and two, we train to swim fast every six or eight weeks, not once or twice a year,” he said, referring to Olympic Trials qualifiers Elise Garcia and Emily Eastin of Crean Lutheran.
“The way we do it, we should be able to swim fast at Olympic Trials and we should be able to swim fast at nationals in the middle of August.”
The county’s fleet in Fresno is paced by Crean Lutheran’s two-time defending CIF-SS Division 2 champion girls and the Saints’ defending state champion diver Colten Young.
The boys diving finals are Friday along with the swim prelims.
The county’s group in Fresno includes Mater Dei junior Christian Hockenbury, who captured the Division 1 title in the 50 free in 20.47 seconds – fifth in county history. There is also a promising collection of young freestylers and seniors Aislinn Light of Mater Dei and Sawyer Farmer of Newport Harbor.
Foothill freshman Hunter Ingram, Mater Dei freshman Stephanie Su and Irvine sophomore Julia Wright are among the distance freestylers to watch.
Brown said based on a scoring of the psych sheet, Crean Lutheran girls project to finish third behind favorite San Ramon Valley and Granite Bay.
“If we swim well, it will be close,” he said.
The Saints girls placed second at the inaugural state meet, behind JSerra, last year, but set a national private high school record in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The Saints graduated Ella Eastin, now an American record holder at Stanford, but return three other members from that 400 team: Emily Eastin, Garcia and Tianna Jorgenson.
Crean Lutheran is the defending state champion in the 200-medley relay, but that’s not what Brown mentions when he recalls the team’s experience at the meet last year.
“We had a fabulous time,” he said. “The (swimmers) were playing their own music (in the team van) and driving me crazy. It was great. … We had a team meeting, and about five hours later, everyone was still there. We were just laughing. ... We had great meals together. Driving home, we hit every Starbucks.”
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