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Foothill League boys swimming preview: Hart is a cut above

Indians’ boys team enters league as favorite, with others having suffered graduation losses

Posted: March 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Hart High senior Mitch Johnson (pictured) figures to be one of the top swimmers in the Foothill League.

 

The race for a Foothill League title in boys swimming will likely play out the same way it has for the last 16 years — with Hart High finishing on top.

The Indians have been holding off a talented Valencia squad for the last several seasons, but with the league losing some of its top talent to graduation, the horizon doesn’t seem to carry with it any significant challenge to the Indians reign.

Valencia has been on Hart’s heels in recent years — finishing comfortably in second at last year’s league finals, 59 points back of Hart and 186 points ahead of third-place West Ranch.

Valencia would like nothing more than to finally top Hart, but more than likely, the league will have to wait at least one more year.

Hart

The Indians suffered perhaps the biggest graduation loss in the league, when 2011 All-Santa Clarita Valley Boy Swimmer of the Year Alex Ngan graduated last year.

But fortunately for the Indians, the stable is well-stocked with returning veterans and newcomers ready to fill the slim holes Hart has.

Two pairs of brothers will lead the way for the Indians in Mitch and Matt Johnson and Chris and Cole Cogswell.

Mitch Johnson, a senior chosen by a majority of the Foothill League coaches as the co-top boys swimmer in the valley along with his brother, will lead a talented Hart team this season and should make the CIF-Southern Section final is the 100-yard butterfly race.

His brother, sophomore Matt Johnson, is stellar in the 200 freestyle, and the pair should be a formidable duo.

Chris Cogswell will provide senior leadership and is a standout in the backstroke and individual medleys.

And Cole Cogswell could prove to be one of the league’s top newcomers.

“This kid, I think will be phenomenal,” said Hart head coach Steve Neale. “He’s already (6 feet, 1 inch) tall and he’s a ninth-grader. He’s posted so far, he’s about the fastest in 50 free and 100 free and has beautiful breaststrokes.”

Coupled with returners Kris Korth, Griffin Scott, Naphong Aneksirikul and Ben Newberry and newcomers Quincy Liu, Austin and Adrian Barreiro, Garret McQueen and Daniel McGowan, the Indians will be a tough team to top.

Valencia

Thanks to graduation, the Vikings lost Bob Hwang — only the second swimmer in Foothill League history to never lose a race at the Foothill League finals along with former Hart swimmer and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin.

The losses don’t end there, though.

Valencia lost Jaryd Borja, Stephen Haw, Dakota Miller and Kevin Martinez, all of who won at least one event at last season’s league finals.

The Vikings will return Jessie Kim and Jack Kerchner, but the squad will be filled with youth. Valencia features more freshmen on the varsity squad than sophomores or juniors.

But the Vikings will get a boost from a senior joining the squad for the first time.

Matt Stulp, who was home-schooled before attending Valencia High, has joined the team and is a skilled freestyler who can race any distance from the 50 to 500.

A supporting cast that includes Nelson Guzman, Tyler Tran and Josh Unas will have to step up and drop times if Valencia is going to challenge Hart for a league title.

West Ranch

The No. 2 spot has been securely in Valencia’s hands for the last few years, but in 2012, the Wildcats are in prime position to steal it away.

The Wildcats will be hurt by the losses of Olympic trials qualifier Riley Mita, in addition to Harrison Nam and Niko Arguelles, but will count on talented returners Tyler Hutten, Philip Wong, Eric Yoo and Josh Lin to help challenge Valencia for second place.

The Achilles’ heel for West Ranch, though, is that no newcomers have stepped up to fill the Wildcats’ weaknesses.

If West Ranch can get solid swims out of swimmers other than Hutten, Wong, Yoo and Lin, it could be in for an exciting season.

“Their want of the win (is their strength),” said West Ranch head coach Aaron Worby. “They understand what they want and how they’re going to get it and they will very fiercely go after it despite some of the odds stacked against them.”

Canyon

The Cowboys are a bit of a wild card this season, swimming in the middle of a crowded pack that will likely see them finish anywhere from third to fifth.

Canyon will have to account for the losses of Ben Hecht, Alex Kim and A.J. Simpson.

Matt Howard, a senior who swims the butterfly, 200 IM and 500 free, is the Cowboys’ top returner.

“Strong, strong swimmer,” said Canyon head coach Steve Himes. “Especially in the 500 free. He’ll be top three in the 500 (this year).”

In addition to Howard, Garrett Kelly, Tim Peak and Matteo Kim also provide a solid core of returning talent for the Cowboys.

Along with J.J. Tsung, Charlie Foote, Jackson Cook, Brandon Seufert and William Simpson, Canyon could shake up the standings or fall further down the pack.

“Those guys are all young,” Himes said. “Those guys were on JV last year. It’s good to see they put work in the offseason and swim fast. They’re really close, and when they combine with my older guys they’ll make a nice little team.”

Saugus

The Centurions didn’t lose much in terms of high-level talent, and return key swimmers Jonathan Morsch, Justin Lee, Christopher Doyle, Jordan Clark and Alex Chan.

But the depth isn’t quite there for Saugus, which doesn’t have any newcomers to the squad that it can pair with older talent.

“I have a much smaller boys squad than the majority of the schools,” said Saugus head coach Vicky Donnelly. “And every year we try and just keep building and building and we’re finally … going in the right direction. We may not have a really deep team, but they enjoy what they’re doing. They love it and they get up on the blocks and put their heart into it.”

Golden Valley

The Grizzlies lost their only senior from last season in Brandon Lee, and will rely on younger kids to carry the team this season.

Juniors Josh and Tim Lee will swim freestyle events for the Grizzlies while Hunter Kincheloe will swim the 500 and Samuel Levy will provide some versatility with his ability to swim multiple events.

Newcomer Nick Lee should help Golden Valley in the 500 and 200.

But the all-around team depth still isn’t there for a program head coach Jenn Marsden is continuing to build.

“I don’t think we’re at the same level (as other Foothill League schools), but we’re finally getting there,” she said. “It’s going to be kind of a different year for us. I’m not expecting a lot of wins on the record, but I’m expecting improvement in the times in relation to the rest of the league. Our swimmers will be closer. They’ll be in the field as opposed to falling behind”

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