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Valencia swim looks to be legitimate threat for Hart

Valencia expected to challenge Hart boys at league finals; Indians girls in control

Posted: April 30, 2013 9:55 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2013 9:55 p.m.

Valencia's Kevin Dai swims the breaststroke leg of the boys Varsity 200 IM at the Foothill League Prelims on

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It’s been a while, but on Thursday the Foothill League Finals boys meet is far from a sure thing.

After Tuesday’s Foothill League prelims, the Valencia Vikings are within striking distance of the Hart Indians, who have won 17 straight league titles.

The Indians have never lost the Foothill League finals meet to a current league foe, last losing in 1997 to former Foothill League member Burbank.

A victory by the Vikings would put them in a first-place tie in the league standings with Hart, but Valencia would win the title because the finals meet acts as a tiebreaker.

Currently the Indians are 5-0 with the Vikings 4-1.

Valencia has never beaten the Indians at the Foothill League Finals meet.

“Our kids are pretty excited,” said Valencia head coach Mike Bechtholdt. “That was our discussion before the meet. It was going to take a group effort. If the boys had a chance to win, everyone from the JV girls to the fastest swimmer on varsity boys had to come together.”

That happened on Tuesday, with freshman Kevin Dai leading the charge as the top qualifier in both the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke.

The girls meet might not hold the same suspense, with the Hart girls expected to secure their 32nd title in 33 years.

But there is one event on everyone’s radar — the 100 butterfly, where reigning Girls Swimmer of the Meet Abbey Weitzeil of Saugus enters with the second seed behind Hart’s Mik Ranslem.

Ranslem posted a time of 55.75 seconds, while Weitzeil finished in 56.31 — both personal bests.

“I’m looking really forward to it,” Ranslem said of the race. “She’s a great competitor (in both high school and at Canyons Aquatics Club) and I wouldn’t be getting the times I’ve gotten without her.”

In the boys meet, Indian Matt Johnson matched Dai’s effort, recording the top overall time in both the 200-yard freestyle and 500 free.

West Ranch and Saugus could put a wrench in the meet, too, and actually serve to help either Hart or Valencia in the final standings.

The top eight swimmers in each event at prelims make the championship final, with the next eight in the consolation final. All 16 will score for their teams at the finals meet.

“What will be important is the role of Saugus and West Ranch,” said Hart head coach Steve Neale. “They have powerful relays and that changes the whole dynamic — this is the fastest prelims I’ve seen.”

Hart was dealt a big blow last week, losing sophomore Cole Cogswell to injury.

The four relay events were not held during prelims and each school will enter a team into the finals meet.

Saugus’ Justin Lee sits atop the 50 free, West Ranch’s Tyler Hutten edged out Saugus’ Jonathan Morsch, the 2012 Boys Swimmer of the Meet, in the 100 free 47.38 to 47.41 and Hart’s Daniel McGowan is the leader in the 100 breaststroke heading into finals.

In the girls meet, Ranslem also took the top time in the 200 individual medley, while Weitzeil has the top time in the 200 free.

West Ranch’s Taylor Poliseno sits atop the 50 free with a 24.19 while Valencia’s Sophie Fiscella is second with a 24.24. The two swimmers tied at last season’s finals meet when both swimmers touched in 23.99 seconds.

Fiscella also recorded the top time in the 100 back, while Hart’s Tamara Santoyo leads the 100 free and West Ranch’s Courtney Chrzas is atop the 100 breaststroke.

Ally Schultz of Hart leads the 500 free despite undergoing an emergency surgery last week. She was a longshot to even compete in Tuesday’s prelims.

“The girl’s tough as any human,” Neale said. “I’ve never seen such a tough competitor and she didn’t let up.”
 

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