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2014 Foothill League Boys Swim Preview

Valencia boys ready to challenge the powerhouse Hart

Posted: March 24, 2014 10:53 p.m.
Updated: March 24, 2014 10:53 p.m.

Valencia's Kevin Dai burst onto the Foothill League scene last year as a freshman. He's looking to build on that.

 

For the first time in years, the waters look murky for the Hart boys swim team.

After winning 18 straight Foothill League titles, the Indians are looking right down the barrel of a loaded Valencia squad.

There have been tight years in the past, including last season, when Hart pulled out a 475.5-457 victory over Valencia at league finals. But this year appears different; Valencia looks ready to dethrone the champions.

But as they say, that’s why they play the game.

Or in this case, that’s why they’ll dive into the water.

Hart

The Indians will put the most talented single swimmers into the pool of any Foothill League school.

The problem, though, is that Hart was decimated by graduation last season, and will struggle to find the depth a team like Valenica will bring to the table.

Hart lost its entire breaststroke and backstroke lineup, something Hart head coach Steve Neale said he’s never experienced in his tenure at the school.

They’ll need their aces to do what they’ve always done, including reigning All-Santa Clarita Valley Boys Swimmer of the Year Matt Johnson, and a swimmer in Cole Cogswell who could challenge many long-standing Hart High records this season.

Neale expects his 400-freestyle relay team to be among the best in Southern California, with Austin Barreiro, Cogswell, Johnson and Kevin Moore taking to the pool in the event.

“We’re going to try to have a freestyle relay that might be challenging to win CIF in the 400 relay,” Neale said. “That’s a realistic goal for us.”

Fellow returners, Naphong Aneksirikul and Jonathan Gragas will help bolster Hart’s lineup, but the Indians will rely on some new faces to make the difference in the league title race.

Swimmers such as Alex Cardia, a versatile swimmer who will see action in the individual medley, butterfly, and possibly breaststroke, and individual medley swimmer Jency Loera will have an impact.

Incoming freshman Adam Osowski, Ryan Brimer and Garret Alcantara will also be counted on this year.

Valencia

Unlike Hart, the Vikings return nearly the entirety of their point scorers this season, and as a result, feel poised to win the Foothill League swim title.

A veteran core of Jack Kerchnar, Johnny Ellery, Tyler Tran, Josh Unas, Kyle Frankhueizen, Sean Tucker, Kevin Dai, Nelson Guzman and Melvin Martinez account for arguably the deepest boys team in the valley.

“We’ve built on what we had last year and now we have a couple more pieces,” said first-year head coach Chris Stroh, who moved up from assistant coach after Mike Beictholdt resigned to spend more time with his family. “Hopefully get us over that hump that we’ve been stuck at for the past couple years.”

That hump, is the Hart Indians; Stroh knows finally beating them would be monumental — and he feels this is the year for it to happen.

“I would definitely say we’re putting a lot of our eggs in this year’s basket,” he said. “For the past couple years me and Mike have been talking to these groups of kids: “If you keep putting in the work and doing what you need to do to get it done, this could be a really good year for us to challenge for the championship.”

The Vikings did lose Everett Howard and Brendan Yoshino to graduation, but are confident in incoming freshman William Chung and Brandon Wang to fill spots in anything from the sprints to the distance events.

West Ranch

The Wildcats finished in third place last season, and are looking to at least match that showing this season.

Returners Derek Chang (100 breast and 50 free) should bolster the Wildcats’ hopes in the 200 and 400 free relays, as well.

Austin Choi should be strong in the 200 IM and 100 fly this season, with sophomore Luke Chandler stepping up from JV this year with fast times in the 50 free.

Sophomore Ian Bower, who finished second to Hart’s Matt Johnson in the 500 free at finals last season, and third in the 200 free, returns as one of the program’s top swimmers.

“Varsity boys, with them they should maintain our position,” Worby said. “But Hart and Valencia are challenging tams and will continue to vie for their spots in the league.”

Next to Chang this season, will be his little brother Daren, who will swim in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.

“He’s just like a little Derek,” Worby said. “So we’re excited to have him as a newcomer.”

Saugus

Saugus lost Jonathan Morsch, a vital member of its 400-yard freestyle relay team that saw success at the CIF-SS Division I finals meet, and was the Foothill League Boys Swimmer of the Meet in 2012.

But the Centurions are buoyed by the fact that the other three members of that Saugus record-setting relay team, Alex Chan, Zachary Zenteno and Will Karren, all return.

“I feel pretty confident about my boys,” said Saugus head coach Vicky Donnelly. “I actually moved up a couple boys from last season that were on JV that have gotten a year or two of experience under their belts there, and have tasked them with the challenge of really now you’re swimming with the big boys and just stepping up and filling the roles of those that we lost from graduation last year.”

Three of those JV call ups are Kerner Mark, Beau Falco and Joey Osbron, who will look to make the transition from the lower levels to the varsity meets this season.

A talented group of freshmen will also join the varsity mix this year, with Tim Lim swimming in the backstroke and middle distance events, Tanner Olson taking on the breaststroke and distance events, and Ty Warr diving in for the butterfly and sprints.

“Valencia and Hart have a very loaded group of boys and it will definitely be a challenge,” Donnelly said. “But my boys, after last season, they are really looking forward to coming back and swimming big during league. I’m looking forward.”

Canyon

The Canyon program sees turnover at the top this season, as head coach Steven Himes has stepped down and Daniel Neswald takes over for the Cowboys.

The highlight of the program continues to be the boys divers, who have made waves in Foothill League and CIF competition in recent years behind brothers Connor and Logan Ferris.

Connor is now gone from the program, graduated and diving at UC Santa Barbara; Logan, though, is back for more.

Connor and Logan finished 11th and 14th, respectively, in the CIF-Southern Section Division I meet last season.

The boys swimmers will be led by returning swimmers Thomas Hamburger, a sophomore who came on strong last year as a freshman, junior Connor Carlson and seniors Jackson Cook and Riley Alfred

The Cowboys will look for replacements for some of their departed veterans, such as freestyle swimmer JJ Fung, who graduated after last season.

In the butterfly, John Lupu returns to the pool for Neswald, and a number of swimmers who qualified for the B-final in the 500 free last season will return looking for more this year: Anthony Powell, Chad Reagan and Matt Wilson.

“He does it all,” said Neswald of Lupu. “We’re going to be putting him in different things throughout the year.”

The team is bolstered by newcomers Mason Eddy, a freshman who will swim the 50 free, and Canyons Aquatics swimmer Rowdy Feather, a freshman who will feature in the 100 backstroke and 500 free.

“It’s been great,” Neswald said. “We’re at a 4-0 preseason so far. We’ve won all four (dual meets) and got second place overall at the (Antelope Valley) Invitational we went to.”

Golden Valley

The Grizzlies feature nine swimmers this season, with Hunter Kincheloe and Jalen Young returning in the 50 and 100 free, and 50 free and 100 fly, respectively.

Nick Lee is the top newcomer in 2014, competing in the 500 freestyle.

The team lost twins Josh Lee and Tim Lee to graduation, but head coach Jenn Marsden is happy with what she’s seen so far from the team.

The program is still building, struggling with numbers, only about 40 kids are in the program.

But Marsden is pleased with the steps the Grizzlies have been taking in recent years, and expects more steps to be taken this year.

“They are faster than they’ve ever been in school history. They are gunning for our school records on many of the different events and they are hoping to get a CIF consideration time with their 200 free relay,” she said.

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