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Foothill swim prelims sets the stage

Posted: May 6, 2014 10:06 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2014 10:06 p.m.

Valencia's Kevin Dai breaks swims in the 200-yard individual medley during the Foothill League prelims on Tuesday at the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center. Dai broke the Foothill League and meet record in the event.

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Well, here we go.

The Foothill League swim finals are set, and the Valencia Vikings swim team looks poised to win their first Foothill League title, or perhaps, titles in school history.

The Vikings placed more swimmers than any other school into Thursday’s finals events, which consist of the top eight swimmers from each event from Tuesday’s Foothill League prelims, with the Vikings outplacing Hart 26-17 in the girls meet, and 25-22 in the boys meet at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center.

All eyes have been on Valencia this year, and the focus only got bigger after the Valencia girls ended the Hart girls 41-meet winning streak earlier this season at their dual meet, and the Valencia boys tied the Hart boys on the same day.

“Since the school has been around 18 or 19 years, everyone who has been a Viking swimmer will feel like a weight has been lifted,” said Valencia head coach Chris Stroh on what a league title would mean.

The Hart boys have won the past 18 Foothill League titles, while the girls have won 31 of the last 32 championships.

With the wide margin of finals swimmers between Valencia and Hart in the girls meet this year, though, the Vikings are in prime position on that side to bring home the championship.

“You never know,” said Hart head coach Steve Neale. “We’ll take the glory where we find it.”

The Vikings received big swims on the girls side from Sophie Fiscella, who won the 50-yard freestyle (24.41 seconds) and Nicole Popov, who won the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 05.10 seconds) in a tie with West Ranch’s Courtney Chrzas.

Canyon freshman Alexa Skorus Neely was third with a 1:05.97. All three times were CIF-Southern Section Division I automatic times.

Skorus Neely also posted an auto time in winning the 200 IM in 2:05.53.

“If we swim the way we swam today we should be in contention to win a Foothill League title in both,” Stroh said. “Boys is closer, but we have a few more swimmers in the top eight.”

For Hart, the top swims came from Ally Schultz, who posted an auto time in winning the 200 free in 1:52.42, and an auto time of 4:59.21 in the 500 free. Mik Ranslem won the 100 fly with an auto time of 57.48.

In the boys meet, Kevin Dai won the 200-yard individual medley for Valencia, finishing in an auto time of 1:51.69 and posted an auto time in the 100-yard breaststroke with a 59.21. Dai’s IM time broke his own league record set at last year’s meet.

Saugus freshman Tanner Olson was just behind in the breaststroke with an auto time of 59.64.

Hart was impressive in the 50 free, with Cole Cogswell winning in 20.91 and Kevin Moore coming in behind him in 21.30.

Valencia’s Jack Kerchner was third in 21.45, all of which were auto times.

Two-time defending All Santa Clarita Valley Swimmer of the Year Abbey Weitzeil, who has missed a lot of the high school season due to club swim obligations, was back in the water for Saugus and as good as ever.

Weitzeil won the 100-yard freestyle in 49.82 seconds and the 100-yard backstroke in 57.40 seconds.

“Winning for my team is always a great thing” Weitzeil said. “And building the Saugus name up, I think it’s really cool.”

The Saugus junior will look to extend her Foothill League title count to six on Thursday, after winning two titles in both her freshman and sophomore years.

But the drama should come from the boys meet and, more specifically, with Valencia and Hart.

The Vikings are confident this is the year they dethrone the reigning champions; Hart is confident its run isn’t over yet.

“We have a target on our back and they have a target on their’s,” said Hart’s Matt Johnson, who won the 200 free with an auto time of 1:41.50. “It will be a battle.”

Notes: Other automatic times posted on Tuesday include: Cogswell (100 back, 51.10); Fiscella (100 back, 58.35); Valencia’s Jessie Kim (100 fly, 51.09. 100 back, 50.56); Moore (100 free, 46.97); Popov (200 IM, 2:05.65); Ranslem (200 IM, 2:06.86).

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