Columbia bound Campolindo Swimmer Mary Ashby is all smiles after winning NCS titles in both the 50 and 100 free. Photo Credit: Dean Ottati
As anticipated, today’s finals of California’s North Coast Section Championships featured some outstanding racing. And, as soon as the meet excitement began to die down, enthusiasm for California’s first ever high school championship began to rise.
The Women of San Ramon Valley dominated the women’s team race, scoring 318 points, easily outscoring challengers Carondelet (171) and Amador Valley (160). After the meet, when asked if they were going to the state championship next week, head coach Heather Johnson gave an emphatic “Yes we are!” She then added “I think the idea is great.”
The men of Northgate (261) found themselves in a little tighter team race, outpacing the men of San Ramon Valley (229) and Del La Salle (181). Northgate head coach Tommy Ortega also expressed enthusiasm for the State Championships next week. “We are very excited,” he said. “this is a great group of guys, and they deserve an opportunity like this.”
The men of Northgate opened the meet with new NCS record in the 200 Medley Relay posting a very quick 1:30.26, nearly 3 seconds ahead of Los Lomas and Campolindo which tied for second in a 1:33.20. The Northgate Splits were as follows:
- Calvin Kirkpatrick – Backstroke: 23.26
- Stanley Wu – Breaststroke: 25.17
- Mason Tittle – Butterfly: 21.50
- Max Bottene – Freestyle: 20.33
De La Salle sprinter Dom Dalpiaz put on a furious rush at the end, posting an exciting 19.79, closing the gap between fourth and the two second place teams to just .09.
Women’s 100 Butterfly
For the second day in a row, Brittany Usinger (Sr. Acalanes, Harvard) broke the NCS record in the 100 fly, finishing in 52.43, breaking the record she set yesterday (52.58). In the race Usinger outpaced Caondelet Jr. Maddie Murphy who posted a very quick 53.82 and San Ramon Valley Jr. Gianna Garcia of San Ramon Valley (53.94).
Brittany Usinger (Sr., Acalanes, Harvard) –In one of the most exciting races of the day, Usinger also triumphed over a 200 free field that ultimately fished with six women under 1:50. This was a race built for the hard core swim junkie. Victory did not come easily for Usinger. She turned at the 50 in third, and by the 100 Tamalpias Jr. Miki Dahlke had opened up about half a body length on the field, and Usinger had fallen back to sixth. But then Usinger fired up the burners, almost catching the leaders by the 125, and by the 150, Usinger and Marin Catholic Jr. Cali Rauker were in a virtual dead heat for the lead, separated by just .09, and starting to pull away from the others. In the end, Usinger got to the wall first in 1:47.51 to Rauker’s 1:47.80. Carondelet Jr. Maddie Murphy finished third in a 1:48.84, just ahead of Granada Jr. Moriah Simonds (1:49.02). For their efforts, the top four ladies in this race earned Automatic All American Honors.
Carson Sand (Sr., Castro Valley, Cal) – One just had the feeling yesterday that Cal bound Carson Sand (Sr., Castro Valley) was biding his time, waiting for the big stage. In the 200 IM, Sand threw down a vicious 29.57 breaststroke split to completely separate from the field. After that, the only question left was who would finish in second? Sand finished in 1:48.00, and the next four guys all posted 1:50’s. Daniel Comforti (Sr., Heritage, ASU) touched the wall second in 1:50.05, and Redwood Jr. Emillio DeSomma finished 3rd in a 1:50.62. Ultimately Sand triumphed over a field that included 5 of the all time top 10 NCS 200 IM’s.
Next Sand threw down a swim that was even better, posting a 53.50 in the 100, just off the NCS record of 53.39 which was the national record just two years ago. In that event, Sand was chased by San Ramon Valley Jr. Hank Poppe (54.35) and Heritage Sr. Daniel Comforti (55.74).
Mary Ashby (Sr., Campolindo, Columbia) – Coming into this meet, sprinter Mary Ashby had always been close, but she had no individual NCS titles to her name. Now she has two. In the 50 freestyle, Ashby got out fast and separated just enough from the field. The Campolindo senior finished in 23.25, ahead of Cailey Steffens (Sr., SRV, SDSU) 23.54, and three time defending champion Iris Brand (Sr., Amador Valley, Wisconsin) moved up from 8th qualifier into third with a 23.56.
Ashby also won the 100 free, but the separation didn’t come until the end of this one. She went out very controlled, but by the end of the first 50, she was in a virtual dead heat with Juniors Miki Dalke of Tamalpias and Cali Rauker of Marin Catholic. In the last half, Ashby did finally pull away finishing in 50.26, ahead of Dahlke (50.56) and Rauker (50.84).
Maxime Rooney (Jr., Grenada, Verbal to Florida) – As expected, in the 200 free, Maxime Rooney dove in and began pulling away immediately. He won with a 1:35.49 which was not quite a second off the NCS record he set yesterday. UCSB bound Northgate senior Eric VanBrocklin finished second in 1:38.27. And with a really nice drop, Heritage sophomore Nathan Barsanti dipped below 1:40 for the first time, finishing 3rd in 1:39.42.
In the 500 free, things started out as expected with Rooney pulling away early, but then things got interesting. Eric VanBrocklin is high school swimming’s version of the undead because he doesn’t die, he doesn’t give up, and he just keeps coming. Rooney was ahead by about a second at the 100, but by the 200 VanBrocklin had almost pulled back even. San Ramon Valley Junior Jake Rollo had also crept back in, just off Van Brocklin’s shoulder. By the half way mark VanBrocklin had pulled ahead. He later said of the race “I don’t know when I had passed him, it wasn’t until later I realized I was ahead.” VanBrocklin kept chipping away, and by the 400 mark, he had about a body length lead. But just when it seemed VanBrocklin could pull it off, Rooney cranked up his kick off the 400 turn, and in about 20 yards, Rooney pulled a body length ahead. Rooney finished in a 4:28.33 to VanBrocklin’s 4:29.42. Rollo was third in 4:34.33.
Races and Champions
200 Medley Relay
The women of San Ramon Valley opened their title defense with a victory in the 200 Medley Relay (.1:44.41), followed by Las Lomas (1:45.86) and Amador Valley (1:46.44).
Riley Scott (Sr., Petaluma, USC) built her 200 IM around a really strong middle 100 where she had the fastest splits in both the backstroke and the breaststroke, finishing in 1:59.52. Maria Carillo Junior Brockley Piper finished second in a 2:02.16, followed by San Ramon Valley Junior Christina Chong (2:02.73).
Mason Tittle earned his first individual NCS title with a very quick 20.37. Defending champion, RJ Williams (Sr., Terra Linda) 20.87 just held off Dom Dalpiaz (Sr. De La Salle, Cal Poly SLO) 20.89 for the silver.
The men’s 100 butterfly was another one of these swim junkie dream races. Four guys hit the first turn in nearly a dead heat. Then, last year’s runner up, and this year’s second place qualifier Arjun Sharma (Sr., College Prep, Northwestern) launched himself off that wall with underwater work that was so far and so fast, when he rose 15 yards down the pool a half a body length ahead, the crowd in the stands let out a collective ‘whoa.’ It seemed Sharma had taken the race right there. But then Sharma’s College Prep teammate, Jr. Grant Watson went to work, steadily gaining ground until they were even at the third turn. Campolindo Sophomore Jolen Griffin and Northgate senior Mason Tittle were right there in the chase too. In the end, Grant Watson powered ahead touching the wall first in 48.28. Sharma finished second in 48.40. Super sophomore Griffin took the bronze in 48.51, just .02 of Tittle (48.53).
Utilizing a strong back half, Dom Dalpiaz (Sr., De La Salle, Cal Poly SLO) finishes his high school career with a win in the men’s 100 free (44.88) overtook Max Bottene (Jr. Northgate) who hit the wall in 45.16. Las Lomas senior Matt Horner finished third in 45.64.
After the meet, Dalpiaz expressed his excitement about going to State: “At first I wasn’t really looking forward to it, but this meet has really got me going now. This is a great opportunity to swim against really fast swimmers from all over the state. I’m excited.”
Moriah Simonds (Jr. Granada) took the lead in the first 100 and never looked back. She finished in a really nice 4:47.41, well ahead of sophomore Samantha Howell (Amador Valley) 4:54.99 and San Ramon Valley Senior Ana Henderson.
200 Free Relay
On the women’s side, Mission San Jose (1:34.38) emerged victorious separating from the pack of five teams that all finished within a second of each other in the prelims. The women of Carondelet were second in 1:35.22.
On the men’s side, it was Terra Linda (1:24.69) that emerged from the pack of five teams that all finished with .6 of each other in the prelims. Las Lomas finished second, only a tenth behind in 1:24.79.
Samantha Coloma (Jr. Carondelet) took charge of this race right away, posting the fastest first 50 (25.78) and bringing it home with the fastest last 50 (27.98) for a really nice final time of 53.76. San Ramon Valley Juniors Gianna Garcia (55.26) and Christina Chong (55.91) were second and third respectively.
On the men’s side, it was Campolindo teammates Cole Stevens (Jr.) and Jolen Griffin (So) that took charge of the race right away. They essentially swam stroke for stroke for the entire race with Stevens reaching the wall first in 49.38 just ahead of Griffin’s 49.43. Forrest White (Jr., De La Salle) was third.
Marie-Claire (MC) Schillinger (Sr., Miramonte, Rice) turned in a really nice 1:01.12 to lead a very talented breaststroke field. Columbia bound Cal High Sr. Aileen Lee finished second in a 1:02.32 with Maria Carrillo Jr Piper Brockley coming in third with a 1:02.53.
400 Free Relay
Maddie Murphy had a great lead off leg (50.20), putting the women of Carondelet in the drivers seat the rest of the way. They finished in 3:26.13 ahead of their rivals from San Ramon Valley who finished in 3:26.52.
The men of Northgate closed the meet with one final shot to break 3:00. In one of those great races within the race Mason Tittle led off, and over in lane 2 leading off for Granada was Maxime Rooney. Tittle had the slimmest of leads at the 50, but it was Rooney that took the first leg (44.56 to 44.69). After that Northgate steadily pulled away from the field, racing against the clock. It was going to be real close. Anchor Max Bottene tacked a heroic 44.45 to the end of it, but the boys came up just short with a 3:00.21. In the end, they haven’t yet broken 3:00, but they can console themselves knowing that there’s a good possibility that they are the fastest high school 400 FR in the country this year…
Petaluma swimmer, Riley Scott was notably absent for the finals of the women’s 100 breast. The reason for her absence appears to be related to a paperwork/administration issue having to do with her not having a fully CIF accredited coach on deck at the time of her 100 breast prelim swim. Apparently a protest was filed, and Scott was not allowed to swim in the finals of the 100 breast (she did swim in the IM). The head NCS representative was the only one authorized to answer questions about the incident, but he was unavailable for comment after the meet. Without confirmation, the issue appears to be something of an extension to a brewing controversy between club and high school swimming documented in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here.
On to the State Championship!
The CIF has given the high school swim community a big opportunity. It’s up to the swimmers, coaches, administrators, parents and fans to decide what they want to do with it.
By my count (well, technically my buddy Jason’s count) after today’s swimming, in total, the women of NCS have 29 relays that qualified to go to State. They also posted 68 individual qualifying swims.
The men of NCS have 20 relays qualified to go to State, and they posted 50 individual qualifying swims.
Good luck to all the men and women who choose to represent their schools and the North Coast Section in the first ever California State Championship next week.