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Foothill League girls swim preview: One year reprieve?

Indians safe, but league is catching up

Posted: March 16, 2013 9:20 p.m.
Updated: March 16, 2013 9:20 p.m.

Saugus High sophomore Abbey Weitzeil returns to a league she dominated last season.

 

The Hart swim team, which has won 30 of the past 31 league titles, looks poised to win it again.

Saugus has the skill at the top, and Valencia has the overall depth to make life difficult for the Indians, but the league will be hard-pressed to content with the returning talent Hart will put in the pool.

Don’t expect things to be easy for the Indians, though, as Valencia defeated the rest of the league at the Santa Clarita Invitational earlier this month — proving they’re a force to be reckoned with.

The question is, is 2013 their year, or do the Vikings need to wait until 2014 to really do their damage?

 

Hart

The message to the rest of the Foothill League is pretty clear this season: Hart is gearing up to win its 31st title in 32 years, and it’s going to take some extraordinary performances to stop them.

The Indians return a deep team, with excellent swimmers in sprint events, mid and long-range distance events and relays.

Talent is spread among freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“On paper they’re the favorite,” said Hart head coach Steve Neale. They’ll be hard-pressed to be dethroned even though Saugus has Abbey Weitzeil. But as far as the team, for every one of their good swimmers, I think we have two or three. We’re evenly balanced. As far as outstanding freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors — we have two per grade.”

The crop of returners Megan Schultz, Asia Antoniuk, Mik Ranslem, Tamara Santoyo and Emma Osowski lead the way.

They’ll be aided by newcomers, freshman distance swimmer Alyssa Schultz and freshman breaststroker and individual medley swimmer Erin Niemi.

Senior Mina Morrison provides an interesting story to look out for this season, as Morrison swam for Hart her freshman year before giving up the sport.

Hart should also get quality swims out of Bryana Waage and Gabbi Madia this season, and has a talented crop of swimmers waiting in the wings.

 

Valencia

Much like their male counterparts, the Valencia girls swim team features a young, yet experienced roster.

The Vikings return all four members of its CIF-Southern Section Division I qualifying 200-yard medley relay team: sophomores Katie Blasing and Maliah Grim and juniors Catie Anderson and Sophie Fiscella.

Fiscella, the 2012 Foothill League champion in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke could be hampered by a shoulder injury.

Rebecca Haw will also return to help Valencia, too.

Still, the Vikings are more than likely at least a year away from really threatening for the Foothill League title.

“We probably have our best class for next year coming in,” Bechtholdt said of the projected 2014 roster.

Newcomer Tiffany Farfan should also have an impact this season, along with Brenna Kelgh and Kayla Smith.

 

Saugus

The Saugus girls enjoyed a remarkable season last year, finishing second in the Foothill League and watching then-freshman Abbey Weitzeil win two CIF-Southern Section Division I individual titles in the 50-and 100-yard freestyle races.

Weitzeil is back, along with swimmers Caitlin Baker, Tara Olson, Dakota Botton and Paige Montoya — but much like the boys, it’s the rest of the cast that could determine Saugus’ final placement.

“Coming off the really great year we had last year, we took some losses and graduated some girls who were key players in our great season last year,” said Saugus head coach Vickey Donnelly. “We’ve had to really dig a little deeper and find some other people who are willing to step up to the plate.”

The losses of Kristin Threw, Katy Sonksen and Kaylyn Sawa, all of whom joined with Weitzeil on Saugus’ Foothill League title winning 200-yard freestyle relay team, will be hard to replace.

And so far, there hasn’t been a newcomer of that caliber to hit the pool.

“It’s gonna be the veterans to carry the girls team,” Donnelly said.

 

West Ranch

The Wildcats have some top returners in 2013, but have been hit hard by key losses.

Taylor Poliseno, Courtney Chrzas and Katie Arnold represent the strength of a West Ranch team most likely to compete for third in the Foothill League this season.

Poliseno, a senior and 2012 All-Santa Clarita Valley swimmer, won league titles last season in the 50-yard free and 100 free and should again be one of the top sprinters in the league.

Newcomers Olivia Morici and Melissa Hartley, a freshman, should help lessen the blow.

Morici provides West Ranch with a strong distance swimmer, something they are shy on this season.

Still, the losses of Britney Peterson, Claudia Reardon and Ann Yoo, all of whom decided not to swim this season, will be felt.

“(Our strength) is probably in our shorter distances, our sprint stuff,” West Ranch head coach Aaron Worby said. “We’re going to have a powerful force challenging some of the top sprint relays and things like that.”

 

Canyon

A lack of depth will be a problem for the Canyon girls swim team this season, with the likes of Shayla Austin, Autumn and Amber Wyatt and Holli Cusumano all graduated.

Senior returner Karina Rodgers is likely Canyon’s top returner, along with Megan Warr.

Rodgers is a versatile swimmer who excels in the 100-yard breaststroke. Warr should swim the 100-yard butterfly and 500-yard freestyle.

“Those two are big coming back from varsity last year and varsity again,” said Canyon head coach Steve Himes. “But most of them are all brought up from JV to be on varsity this year.”

That means a lot of newcomers, highlighted by Daelin Holmes, Katelyn Martinez, Julia Zimmerman, Jessica Kelly and Lisbeth Acosta and Victoria Zomalt.

Freshman Rachel Alfred, who was on the school’s cheerleading team in the fall and has never swam outside of youth leagues, is excelling in the pool early in the season.

“She’s just flying right now,” Himes said. “100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and I put her in some sprint stuff. Really excited to see what Rachel can do. Especially coming from a different sport.”

 

Golden Valley

Like Canyon, the Grizzlies simply don’t have the numbers to compete at the highest levels of Foothill League competition.

But they do feature some individuals who could make significant strides this season.

That group is experienced, with Stella Lee and Nandi Moore returning.

The roster features just eight swimmers currently listed on varsity, with no newcomers, according to Marsden.

“Every single year the team gets better and when there’s 15 school records in the first four meets (program wide) that’s been huge.”

So far, the group has been making progress, dropping time at its preleague meets.

“I’ve said it every year for sure, it’s a process of building this team back up,” Marsden said. They were stronger when the school first opened and the team got really small for a few years. But they’re starting to come back to the point other coaches are noticing an improvement.”

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