Dean Ottati is a lifelong competitive swimmer of no real note. He and his wife Chris are the proud parents of an NCS swimmer. Dean is the author of The Runner and the Path: An Athletes Quest for Meaning in Postmodern Corporate America, and is currently suffering a massive case of procrastination-through-distraction while his manuscript, Swimming and the Meaning of Life: A Father, A Son, A Philosophy, and A Sport, sits alone on the corner of his desk, starving for attention.
Preview of California’s North Coast Section (NCS) High School Championships
The 2012/13 high school swimming season will go down in the history books as one of the greatest ever. In December, the boys of Bolles (FL 1A) made a statement, emphasizing team over individual glory, re-writing all three national relay records in the process (they still recorded 3 more individual event national records – 2 overall and 1 independent). Not to be outdone, Jack Conger and Kate Ledecky swam a pair of 500’s-for-the-ages at the now legendary DC Metro Championships in February. But the high school season is not quite over. This week, the North Coast Section (NCS) in California will hold its championship, and in its own way, it will prove to be a satisfying finish to an astonishing year.
California doesn’t have a high school state meet. Instead, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) divides the state into 10 sections. Each section holds its own swimming championship. The NCS covers the San Francisco East Bay and North Bay geographic areas. The meet format within each CIF section varies, but inside the NCS approximately 120 high school swim teams, large and small, compete directly. The top 40 seeds in each event qualify (times must have been swum in a HS meet).
This year will feature the swan song of perhaps the greatest overall senior class of swimmers in NCS history, both in terms of athletes at the top, and in terms of depth.
The Men’s Meet
On the men’s side, every individual NCS record, with the possible exception of the 200 IM, is in jeopardy. Not only that, but if they kept statistics for such a thing, the times the men must post to earn a second swim (top 16 – Finals and Consolation Finals) should prove to be among the fastest in the country for a high school meet (that distinction probably goes to California’s Southern Section Division 1 nearly every year). Given the depth, there will be no easy titles and few easy favorites. Some of the key story lines this year include:
Men’s 200 Free
Four years ago, upstart freshman Jackson Miller nearly stole the 200 free title. Three years ago, then sophomore Jackson Miller opened a lead at the 100, only to be run down by the next super freshman, Nick Silverthorn. Silverthorn broke the great Aaron Wayne’s NCS record in the process. Last year, Miller took off again, and this time held off Silverthorn’s charge, breaking Silverthorn’s NCS record (which currently stands at 1:36.85 – Miller has already been 1:36.16 this season). This year will be the rubber match between Miller (Sr. Las Lomas, Indiana) and Silverthorn (Jr. Granada). Of course, Dillon Williams (Sr. Monte Vista, Cal) and a few others would be just as happy to spoil the party.
As a side note, the fun fact about Jackson Miller is he was the QB for his high school football team. Miller may be the only swimmer in history to represent the USA on the Jr. Pan Pacific team in Hawaii on Sunday, and come home to throw a 40 yard touchdown pass in the varsity game on Friday night. Next fall will be the first fall swimming season for Miller in at least 4 years, and Indiana may enjoy some huge upside with their new recruit.
What’s Maxime Rooney (Fr. Granada) Going to Swim?
All Spring, the question everybody asked was: “What do you think all world freshman, and 13-14 NAG Swammie winner, Maxime Rooney, is going to swim?” One top-ranked swimmer I spoke with offered perhaps the best response: “Whatever he wants,” referring to the fact that even as a freshman, Rooney is versatile enough to score big points almost regardless of event, which is a huge advantage to a coach trying to win a team title. Well, now we know what Rooney wants, the 100 fly and the 500 free – Two events where he will race against the very best in the section.
In the butterfly, Rooney will face Steven Stumph (Sr. Campolindo, USC) who, in a surprise move of his own, vacated the defense of his 200 IM title (NCS Record 1:47.52), and Jason Chen (Sr. Amador Valley, Michigan) among others. To date, Rooney has not yet broken 50 (he’s been 50.07) but that will probably change very soon. Last year, six swimmers went under 50 in this race, and there’s a pretty decent chance the whole final will go under 50 this year. The current record is 48.38, and Stumph is seeded in a 48.84.
In the department of what-goes-around-comes-around, Jackson Miller, once the freshman phenom himself, gets to experience the dynamic from the other side, facing Rooney in the 500 free. After this one is over, the oldest record on the Men’s side of the books could be erased (John Dorr, 2001, 4:25.98).
Men’s 100 Breaststroke
This could be the marquee race of the meet. Last year Steven Stumph (Sr. Campolindo, USC) and Charlie Wiser (Sr. Miramonte, Stanford – Water Polo and Swimming) battled in the finals, posting the two fastest high school meet times in the country. When it was over, Stumph (54.06) had defeated the two time NCS defending champion Wiser (54.57). This year will be their last high school dual, but there’s no guarantee that either will go out as champion. Earlier this year, at USA Swimming’s Cal-Nevada Winter Sectionals in Long Beach, Nick Silverthorn won the 100 Br in 54.36. So now Silverthorn has decided to abandon the defense of his NCS 500 free title in favor of this race. Brett Usinger (Sr. Accalanes, Princeton) may also make a run for the gold.
Can Sven Campbell Repeat?
Last year, Sven Campbell (Sr. Campolindo, Cal) set three NCS records: The 100 free in 44.22, the 100 back in 48.16, and the 50 free while leading off the 200 Free Relay in 20.23. The questions this year will be: “Can he do it again?” There’s very little room for error in the 50 free. “Can he break 20?” Sprinter David Morgan (SR. De La Salle, USC) and several other fast twitch specialists are ready to pounce on even the slightest mistake. “Can Campbell hold off a solid field in the 100 backstroke?” – Jason Chen (Sr. Amador Valley, Michigan), Albert Miao (Sr. Miramonte, UCSB) and Kenneth Castro-Abrams (Sr. San Marin, Harvard) among others, could all upend Campbell’s streak. If Campbell is to break his own record in the 100 free, he’ll need to do it while leading off the Campolindo 400 Free Relay which goes in as the top seed in 3:03.08.
The Men’s Team Race
In the team competition, Campolindo, led by Steven Stumph and Sven Campbell, along with Jonathan Ratchford (Sr, Campolindo, Cal Water Polo) and others, look to extend their winning streak to nine straight NCS titles.
The Women’s Meet
On the women’s side, the story of the meet is going to be last swims by some great champions:
Celina Li (Sr. Foothill, Cal)
There may not be a more unnoticed and unassuming high school swimming star than the gracious and ego-reduced Celina Li. But by all accounts, Li is well loved by her teammates, a respected leader, and her high school accomplishments can only be matched by a rarified few. Last summer Li finished 6th in the 200 IM at the Olympic Trials. In November Li won the 200 IM (1:55.28) at winter nationals in Austin, finishing ahead of such luminaries as future Cal teammate Missy Franklin. This year, Li will look to defend her NCS titles in the 200 IM and in the 100 fly. Li already holds the NCS record in the fly (53.07). In the 200 IM she’ll be chasing the NCS record set by the great Maya DiRado (1:56.17). The record is well within Li’s reach, but the question is: Is Li saving her taper to try to make the World Championship Team in late June?
Chelsea Chenault (Sr. Carondelet, USC)
Last summer, Chelsea Chenault made the finals of the Olympic Trials in the 200 free where she just missed making the London 800 free relay team by .21 of a second. In preparation for those trials, Chenault did not rest for NCS last year, instead working out the morning of prelims. She still won her events going away. In the 200 free Chenault just missed the NCS record with a 1:44.76. In the 500 free she set the new record in 4:38.05. There’s a good chance that Chenault will swim through NCS again this year, but the question still remains: how fast will she go?
Madison White (Sr. Carondelet, UCLA)
Madison White was an Olympic Trial semi-finalist in the 200 back. She will look to defend her NCS titles in both the 100 back and 100 free. Along with her Carondelet teammate Chenault, White is part of the 200 Medley Relay team that holds the current national high school record (1:40.73), set two years ago. This year the pair will have their hands full, going in as underdogs against the defending NCS 200 Medley Relay champions, San Ramon Valley. White will need to open up a big lead on the backstroke leg to give them a shot.
The Women’s Team Race
After losing half a dozen(ish) scoring seniors, the San Ramon Valley (SRV) Wolves, Led by Heidi Poppe (Jr.) the defending NCS champion in the 100 breast (1:00.91), will look to become three-peat NCS champions by utilizing overall team depth. 20 of the 25 of the girls on the team are year round swimmers. Carondelet, with its star power, could make the women’s team race interesting.
The North Coast Section is home to such swimming legends as Matt Biondi and Natalie Coughlin – Who still holds the oldest NCS record on the books. This year’s championships will be held at the Concord Community Pool in Concord, California. Prelims start at 10:30 AM this Friday May 17, and Finals will be held on Saturday May 18th, also starting at 10:30 AM.
Live Results can be viewed by following the links on the NCS website: