Santa Margarita Boys Win First CIF SS DI Championship Title By 1.5 Points

2021 CIF SOUTHERN SECTION SECTION DI SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Boys’ Meet Recap

While Loyola broke the only Division I Meet Record of the meet in the 400 free relay, it was Santa Margarita’s 4th place finish that won them their first-ever CIF Southern Section Division I Championship title. Their margin of victory: 1.5 points.

2nd place team and defending champions Loyola swept two out of three relays as well as two individual events, but Santa Margarita consistently placed high enough to earn the win. Note that the 2020 CIF Championships were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, so Loyola won their title in 2019. Santa Margarita placed 2nd that same year.

Loyola’s team of sophomore Rex Maurer, junior William Kim, sophomore Zachary Larrick, and senior Jack Brearton won the 400 free relay by posting a new Division I Meet Record: 2:59.40. This time crushed the previous record from 2019 by .25. They were the only team to crack 3:00.00 and Brearton anchored the relay with a 45.86 split.

Santa Margarita’s team of freshman Ramon Jiang and sophomores Tony Ju, Keller Morgan and Allen Cai touched the wall in 4th place with a time of 3:04.22.

The meet started off with a win from Harvard-Westlake’s whose team of sophomore Benjamin Ham, juniors Tommy Park and Ronald Dalmacio, and sophomore Ethan Wang took 1st place in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:31.62., cracking their school’s record from 2019 by one-third of a second. They touched the wall about .8 ahead of second-place team Santa Margarita who also set a new school record (1:32.46).

Maurer claimed two individual CIF titles as well, one in the 200 free where he fended off Tesoro’s Anders Aistars to win the 200 free with a time of 1:35.91. Maurer went out in 21.97 compared to Aistar’s 22.38 but the junior Aistars picked up the pace to make for a close finish. Maurer finished .64 ahead of Aistars.

His second title came in the 500 free as well, with a time of 4:19.57 and a 6 second lead over the field. Santa Margarita sophomore Humberto Najera snagged 2nd place (4:26.19). PR. Maurer pulled away on the last 150 yards.

Notably, only two of the swimmers on Santa Margarita’s boys’ team are graduating this year and many of their largest point scorers were underclassmen. For example, Najera won more points for Santa Margarita in the 200 IM where he had a battle with Irvine’s Parker Macy.

Najera had a two-second lead after the backstroke leg but Macy tore down that lead on the breast, posting a 29.83 on that 50 and flipping .19 ahead of Najera. But the Santa Margarita sophomore barreled down the pool on the last 50, reclaiming his lead to ultimately finish in 1st place (1:47.26) ahead of second-place finisher Macy (1:48.03).

Najera broke Santa Margarita’s school record, previously set by Tommy Park in 2019 at 1:48.70. This was Santa Margarita’s only individual title win of the meet.

Harvard Westlake’s Dalmacio earned two more victories, following the relay, first in the 50 free with a time of 20.32. West Ranch junior Jason Hawkins and Tesoro senior Connor Brennan tied for 2nd place (20.84). Later, he claimed 1st place in the 100 back with a time of 47.88, followed by Loyola’s Kim (48.42).

In the 100 fly, Jacob Aina, a Valencia senior, and Daniel Verdolaga, a Santa Margarita freshman, had a tight race in the 100 fly. Aina had the fastest first half, 22.67, by about .60 but Verdolaga finished the race with a 50 split about half a second faster than Aina, 25.63. Aina ultimately took 1st place (48.79), .27 ahead of Verdolaga who was followed closely by Diamond Bar senior Vincent Cheng (49.08)

This was a lifetime best for both Aina and Verdolaga by about half a second.

Loyola took 1st place in the 200 free relay with their team of senior Taz Kanjanakaset, junior William Kim and sophomores Zachary Larrick and Maurer (1:22.46). They crushed the previous school record from 2019 by 3 seconds.

Hank Rivers, a junior at Wilson-Long Beach, won the 100 free (44.65) after a close race with second-place finisher Aistars (44.83).

Rivers then had a close race with senior Chris O’Grady of La Canada in the 100 breast with Rivers ultimately touching the wall 1st (54.13), .01 ahead of O’Grady. Santa Margarita had a 9-10-12 finish in this penultimate event, keeping them ahead of Loyola in team standings, but setting both schools up for the chance to win the meet during the 400 free relay.

 

Team Scores (Top Ten)

  1. Santa Margarita, 322.50
  2. Loyola, 321
  3. Harvard-Westlake, 166.50
  4. Huntington Beach, 157
  5. Tesoro, 155
  6. La Canada, 123
  7. West Ranch, 118.50
  8. Northwood, 103
  9. Los Alamitos, 90
  10. Hart, 77

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Socal Swim Parent 001
19 days ago

The debate about Private high school vs Public high school in Southern California Swimming now reached boiling point. We should seperate the two groups into different divisions to encourage the healthy development of public school swimming. Private High Schools like Loyola, Santa Margarita,Harvard-Westlake, can recruit across County lines, using various incentives, while Public High Schools are bounded by their strictly enforced enrollment area. This is no longer a fair game and it is creating unfair advantage as well as monopoly in the Southern California High School swimming world. Many students are forced to abandon their public high school, because their friends and likly teammates are moving to private schools due to their future public school’s deteriorating swimming performance. And this… Read more »

neffry
Reply to  Socal Swim Parent 001
19 days ago

Just to play devil’s advocate, is it possible that private schools don’t NEED to actively recruit? Isn’t possible that athletes self-select based on what they believe will be their best move for their athletic careers? Grew up in central cal, and the 800-pound gorilla at our section championship was Bellarmine and the other WCAL teams. BCP won… what, 30 some-odd section titles? I am skeptical that they did that via active (and quite illegal) recruiting of only the best athletes. i think many athletes chose to attend schools like BCP and other private schools because they had established a tradition of excellence in aquatic sports (and support for sport and education at large). Wouldn’t you, as an athlete, want to… Read more »

Socal Swim Parent 001
Reply to  neffry
19 days ago

Some private schools are offering incentives to attract swimmers, such as tuition discount. Whether that is purely need based is not clear to the general public.
Swimmer self selection is another chicken and egg thing. Who wants to join a losing team? Then the dominance will become more dramatic, and the division championship become so boring.
Swimming nowadays is more a club pratice than a high school thing. It depends heavily on which club you go to. So to say private schools succeed is because they have better coaching is not true.
This private vs public competition is like you tie the hands of public schools and let them to participate in a wrestling match. How do… Read more »

cynthia curran
Reply to  Socal Swim Parent 001
19 days ago

A lot of the publics schools ae getting poorer since poor people are less able to move than people with higher income in that area. Mission Viejo public high school has more kids economic disadvantage than in the past. So the private schools will tell parents they offer a better education than the public schools. Arc scores of Mission Viejo high school data on demographics. Two, there are lots of private small schools like Calvary Chapel and Saddleback Christian school that don’t have good athletes in most sports. People just attend Calvary Chapel high school or Saddleback Christian school based upon religion. In fact, if California were really serous about the housing crisis years ago the Demographics of having rich… Read more »

College Swimmer
Reply to  Socal Swim Parent 001
18 days ago

I do agree with the club coach vs. high school coach debate. I went to one of those big private schools and the varsity “star” swimmers didn’t go to a single high school practice. At my school if you had CIF D1 cuts or were on varsity you didn’t have to go and could go to your club practice. But a separate division wouldn’t work for a number of reasons. First and foremost schools are placed into divisions for a number of reasons, including both public and private. There are private schools in the D4 category. You seem to believe that EVERY private schools has a stellar swim team. That’s definitely not true. Look at the Trinity League for example.… Read more »

Socal Swim Parent 001
Reply to  College Swimmer
17 days ago

The top 10 private schools can form an Open Division, and let the rest of smaller private schools to attend D3,D4
D1-D2 become exclusive public schools

Bruh
Reply to  Socal Swim Parent 001
19 days ago
SoCal Coach
Reply to  Socal Swim Parent 001
19 days ago

Coming from someone who is a head high school coach at a public school in Orange County… I agree to some extent. I don’t think splitting the private and public schools into different categories is the answer, but maybe creating an “open” division like some other a sports in CIF have is a start.

Swimming is so tough. Any “team” sport out there could upset an opponent, but in swimming, it’s hard to upset a team when the opponent has multiple swimmers with Olympic trial cuts. My kids did fantastic this season… dropping times, getting PRs in League and CIF, and many school records broken. Despite all this success, we can’t compete with these Olympic Trial/National cut teams at all.

Socal Swim Parent 001
Reply to  SoCal Coach
18 days ago

I agree with your suggestion of an Open division, which include teams which can enroll kids without geological boundaries such as school districts. This will be fair to all schools and nobody can complain.

College Swimmer
Reply to  Socal Swim Parent 001
19 days ago

I went to one of those “recruiting private high schools” and they didn’t give tuition discounts. Saying that is ridiculous and would be 100% illegal. Schools like Santa Margarita are right next to big clubs like Mission Viejo Nadadores and Irvine Novaquatics. And because SM has won 7 CIF champs in a row, star swimmers are attracted to the school. Because they want to be apart of a winning team. It also helps that schools like SM have amazing academic programs that help these swimmers commit to amazing schools. At least that was one of the reasons why I wanted to go to my high school.

Sid Frisco
Reply to  Socal Swim Parent 001
17 days ago

Santa Margarita doesn’t have to recruit swimmers. They line up to go there. This is not high school football and they don’t need recruiting tactics. Good swimmers from local clubs drive the success of a high school program. Just so happens that this private school option is surrounded by some of the best programs in the state.

Socal Swim Parent 001
Reply to  Sid Frisco
17 days ago

From 2010 to 2019, on the boys side, south OC public schools won 7 out of 10 D1 champions, with Capo Valley 3 times, UNI 2 times, Northwood and Dana Hills one time each. The only outside winners are Loyola (3 times). Loloya is a private school which can freely attract many talents in LA, but this shows how many talents are in South OC public schools. While at the same period, the SM girls won many straight titles. This trends of going to SM used to happen only on the girls side, and now is starting to happen on the boy’s side, due to whatever reason.
Academically, there are amazing public schools in Irvine, newport beach and Coto… Read more »

Sid Frisco
Reply to  Socal Swim Parent 001
17 days ago

Recruiting seems to be a common theme. To be clear, when it comes to swimming, SM doesn’t have to recruit. The line is long and talent laden with some of the best swimmers in the county fighting for relay spots. That’s not exactly a selling point to new “recruits”. Success breeds success. In this case the local clubs have been very successful and SM benefits. Again, if private school is an option and you are a high level swimmer in Orange County where else would you go? Recruiting for high school swim across county lines is laughable.

Socal Swim Parent 001
Reply to  Sid Frisco
17 days ago

It’s not laughable to put those private schools into a seperate division, where they can compete freely for talents and win their own title. It is laughable to put all schools together without considering the advantage of private schools in gathering talents when public schools are limited by their school district boundary. So, to even the playing field, something must be done. I encourage all public high school coaches, students and parents to voice their discontent to the CIF SS to find a resolution. Please spread the words, readers of this post.

Jude DiStefano
19 days ago

Pain

Sid Frisco
18 days ago

There could be many variables but one commenter noted that NOVA and MVN (not to mention SoCal and many others) all surround Santa Margarita. If you are a high level swimmer in one of those programs and you are considering a private school education where would you go if high school swim is part of the decision making process? Recruiting is not necessary.