Santa Margarita Beats Loyola High in Huge SoCal High School Dual Meet

Santa Margarita Catholic vs. Loyola High School

  • March 28, 2024
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Short Course Yards (25 yards), High School Dual
  • Results

The California High School Swimming & Diving season, one of the last in the country every year, is underway, with the ceremonial ramping-up coming late last week in the annual dual meet between Santa Margarita Catholic and Loyola High School.

The two top boys’ programs in the state, the pair have finished 1-2 at each of the last two high school state championship meets, with Santa Margarita winning by 15.5 points in 2023 and Loyola winning by 40 points in 2022.

Editor’s note: the Santa Margarita girls swam an intrasquad at the meet, and a single swimmer each from Saint Francis and Harvard Westlake also swam exhibition, but the only scoring was between the SM and Loyola boys.

In the varsity meet, the Santa Margarita boys came away with a dominating 105-65 victory led by seniors Hunter Cehelnik and Daniel Verdolaga.

Cehelnik, committed to UCSD, won the 50 free in 22.17 and the 100 free in a season-best time of 44.45. That 100 free time is only .18 seconds shy of his lifetime best that was done at last year’s California HS State Championship meet, where he placed 5th. Of the 4 swimmers ahead of him in that race, 3 have graduated while Palo Alto senior Ethan Harrington returns as the favorite.f

Verdolaga, meanwhile, won the 100 fly in 47.20 and the 200 IM in 1:50.14. He is committed to swim at Army-West Point next season.

The top contributor for Loyola was junior Ray Liu, who won the 100 back in 49.86, narrowly ahead of his senior teammate Kenny You (50.03), and also swam the leadoff leg for the winning Loyola 200 medley relay, splitting 22.42 en route to a 1:30.23 final time. He gave his team a full-second lead which was critical in holding off Santa Margarita’s back-half swimmers, who would eventually close the gap to a quarter-second in 1:30.43.

That Santa Margarita relay didn’t include the freestyle winner Cehelnik or the butterfly winner Verdolaga, allowing them to sweep the sprint free relays. They won the 200 free relay in 1:24.81, with sophomore anchor Carson Eich splitting 20.73 to overtake Loyola anchor Edward Kim by .13 seconds. The 400 free relay was a more dominating result, with Santa Margarita finishing 1-2 in 3:00.86 and 3:09.57, respectively. Loyola’s top relay placed 3rd in 3:10.42.

Liu won the dual meet in the 200 free in 1:40.41, though the interloping Nathan Kim from Saint Francis won the 200 free in 1:38.37. Kim is committed to D3 power MIT next fall. He also touched just-behind Cehelnik in the 100 free in 44.80.

While the Santa Margarita girls didn’t have anybody to race, they too are the defending California State Champions, and they showed that with some powerful exhibition swims on Thursday. That includes wins by the defending World Junior Champion in the 200 back Teagan O’Dell, who won the 100 free in 48.55 and 100 breast in 1:00.75. That 100 free time is only .21 seconds shy of her lifetime best.

Chloe Stinson, a North Carolina commit, swam a lifetime best to win the 100 fly in 53.29. That took almost a second off her previous lifetime best done in February as Stinson, recruited as primarily a sprint freestyler, is finding a big butterfly groove late in her junior season.

Gracyn Aquino won the 50 free in 22.75 and the 100 free in 51.05; that time in the 50 free is faster than her state title winning time from last season of 22.84.

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1 month ago

this is wild for a dual meet… these times would win or podium at most state championships. CIF champs will be epic

1 month ago

Bro 1:38 and 44 for a dual meet is fast

jp input is too short
1 month ago

Wait, wasn’t Harrington at Stanford this year?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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