USC Commit Justina Kozan Breaks 200 IM Trinity League and SMCHS Records

by Eleanor Beers 8

May 24th, 2021 High School, News, Records

2021 Trinity League Championships

  • May 18-21
  • San Juan Capistrano, California
  • Short Course Yards (SCY)
  • Results

Girls: 

On Friday, the Santa Margarita Catholic High School girls secured their 21st consecutive Trinity League title. Both the Santa Margarita Varsity and Junior Varsity girls swept all three relays at the meet.

During Friday’s finals, National Teamer Justina Kozan dominated the varsity girl’s 200 IM with her time of 1:58.32 and shattered former Cal-Bear Katie Mclaughlin’s previous school record of 1:59.84, which was set in 2015, as well as the Trinity League record in the event. Her time was also a season best, just edging out the time of 1:58.68 she posted at the 2021 MAC March Madness meet. At the CIF Southern Section championships in 2019, Kozan set her lifetime best in the event of 1:56.31. The swimming portion of this year’s CIF-Southern Section Championships will kick off on the coming Tuesday, May 25. Diving began on Friday.

Kozan was the only swimmer in the event under the two-minute mark and led the pack by nearly six seconds. Kozan’s younger sister Asia touched in second with a time of 2:04.24, followed by Lena Li with a time of 2:10.57. The Santa Margarita girls went 1-2-3 in the event.

Later that session, Kozan swam to her second individual win of the meet, posting a time of 53.23 in the 100 fly and took down yet another Trinity League record. It was another season best for her, shaving off .6 from her previous season best of 53.88 also set at the 2021 MAC March Madness meet. Her lifetime best is a 52.42 from the 2019 Speedo Championship Series in Carlsbad.

Kozan’s teammate and Duke commit Isabella Abrajan finished in second with a time of 55.05, while Asia Kozan took third in 56.24. Further establishing their dominance, the Santa Margarita girls swept the top-four places in the event. 

In February, Kozan announced her commitment to join the Trojan women as part of their Class of 2026. We currently have Kozan ranked as the number 3 recruit in her class. As of now, she is qualified for seven events at the Olympic Trials, including six Wave 1 cuts and one Wave 2 cut (400 IM). Currently, Kozan’s fastest 400 IM LCM time puts her at 9th overall in the nation (for the 11/28/2018 – 05/13/2021 period). She sits at 14th in the 200 IM. 

Another standout from Santa Margarita on the girl’s side was Macky Hodges. Hodges, a sophomore, swept the varsity girl’s 200 and 500 free. Unlike Kozan, both of the times that Hodges posted were lifetime-bests. She started out the meet by winning her first individual title in the 200 free, where she clocked a time of 1:47.30. The time qualifies her for the 2021 USA Swimming Summer Championships by .09 seconds. 

Just two months prior at the 2021 MAC March Madness meet, Hodges dipped under the 1:48 barrier for the first time, touching in a 1:47.73. During her 2020-2021 season, she has seen continuous time drops in the event. As of February of 2020, before the pandemic took hold in the US, Hodge’s best time in the event was a 1:50.92. The next fastest swimmer in the event was fellow SMCHS swimmer Abby O’Sullivan, who swam a 1:51.77.

In the 500 free, Hodges bettered her time of 4:52.92 set at the 2021 MAC March Madness meet by about .2 with her time of 4:52.74. Just like her 200 free, Hodges’ 500 free time has seen steady improvements throughout the season. In October of 2020, she broke the five-minute barrier for the first time with a time of 4:59.98. Before that, her best time was 5:04.24. 

Other Highlights:

  • Teia Salvino of SMCHS similarly won two Varsity titles at the meet. Salvino, a freshman, swept the 50 and 100 freestyle events with times of 23.31 and 50.77, respectively. She neared her lifetime best times in both of the events (23.02 in the 50 free and 50.04 in the 100). 
  • Mater Dei High School Kailia Utley won two Junior Varsity events at the meet (100 back and 500 free). Her times, however, would’ve placed her high up in the Varsity standings as well. Utley’s 500 free (4:54.51) was the second fastest time of the meet, behind only Macky Hodges. Her 100 back time of 56.02 would’ve won the girl’s varsity event, just out-touching Maggie McGuire’s time of 56.06. Uteley will join the Vanderbilt women next fall as part of their Class of 2025.
  • The SMCHS 400 free relay team of Justina Kozan, Linda Yu, Macky Hodges, and Teia Salvino broke the Trinity League record with their time of 3:24.15.

Overall Team Scores (Girls):

  1. Santa Margarita: 2,282 points
  2. Mater Dei: 1,678 points
  3. JSerra Catholic: 641 points
  4. Lutheran/Orange: 634 points
  5. Rosary Academy: 452 points

Boys:

The Santa Margarita boys showed the same dominance as their female counterparts, winning the meet by nearly 200 points. During Friday’s finals session, the Santa Margarita boys made history in the 200 free relay, cracking both the SMCHS and Trinity league records in the event. 

Below are the names and splits of the record-breaking men:

  1. Allen Cai – 21.30
  2. Tony Ju – 21.27
  3. Keller Morgan – 21.55
  4. Ramon Jiang – 20.74. 

In their individual events, Cai and Jiang each took two wins. Cai swept the 100 and 200 freestyles with times of 46.14 and 1:39.96, respectively. In the 200, Santa Margarita men Alex Ispas (1:41.43) and Tony Ju (1:41.52)  touched behind Cai, contributing to a one-two-three finish. In the 100, Cai out-touched Ju by .23. Ju took second place with a 46.37. Cai’s lifetime best in the 200 is a 1:39.44, meaning he came within a half-second of achieving a best time in that event. 

Jiang, a freshman, beat out SMCHS teammate Lucas Morales-Ostergaard by .02 to win the 50 free in a time of 21.30. The swim was a best time for Jiang. His previous best time of 21.55 came from the 2021 MAC March Madness meet in March. In his 100 back, Jiang added just over a tenth to his seed time of 50.91 to finish in a 51.05. Again, Morales-Ostergaard touched in second behind Jiang, posting a time of 51.45.

Other Highlights:

  • In the 200 IM, Santa Margarita boys Keller Morgan, Humberto Najera, and Jack Nugent led their team to a one-two-three finish. Morgan and Najera battled it out to the finish, both posting times within the 1:50 range. Morgan took the win with a 1:50.04, followed closely by Najera in a 1:50.17.
  • Daniel Verdolaga of SMCHS, a freshman, won the 100 fly by over a second and was the only swimmer under the 50-second barrier with his time of 49.86. His best time, however, comes from the Loyola vs. Santa Margarita Catholic two weeks ago, where he went a 49.15.
  • Alex Ispas of SMCHS, who will continue his swimming career with Northwestern next fall, snagged a win in the 500 free with a time of 4:30.92, coming within .4 of his best time of the event.
  • Jacky Xing, also from SMCHS, neared his lifetime best of 57.17 in the 100 breaststroke with his event winning time of 57.42. Verdolaga finished in second with a 58.10.

Overall Team Scores (Boys):

  1. Santa Margarita: 2,133.5 points
  2. Mater Dei: 1,941.5 points
  3. Servite: 1,132.5 points
  4. Lutheran/Orange: 406 points
  5. St. John Bosco: 402 points
  6. JSerra Catholic: 301.5 points

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College Swimmer
27 days ago

weird how mater dei puts a sub 5 minute 500 freestyler in the JV division… really ruins the meet for the girls who are actually on JV

TEJ
Reply to  College Swimmer
27 days ago

CIF has interesting transfer rules (without knowing whether Utley is a transfer) that might be at play. If you transfer, you have to sit out a set period of the season before swimming varsity; if you swim JV at all you are locked into JV for the season.

If she was looking to get some meets in during the season and was a transfer, with COVID uncertainty, I can 100% see the reason for her opting to compete on JV early in the season and then getting locked in – especially as a senior (re: the article).

Yes, it is unfortunate for those she is competing against, but depending on how Trinity runs it’s JV competition, league JV meets are… Read more »

cynthia curran
Reply to  College Swimmer
27 days ago

Good point. You think a girl that fast would want to earn a varsity letter. I think they were going for a JV title in the Trinity League so they had a fast swimmer in the JV division. In fact when I swam years ago in the Garden Grove League and the Varsity kids were the better swimmers and the JV were the slower swimmers. In fact my high school today varsity would be swimming in the open division in this the Trinity league that is how much faster the swimmers are.

Sid Frisco
Reply to  College Swimmer
27 days ago

Likely something going on other than swim. Perhaps conflicts on the scholastic front? Senior, end of year finals etc. who knows. Great swims regardless.

Danny
Reply to  College Swimmer
26 days ago

She could be a transfer…and chose to compete on JV rather than sit out. But who knows.

Bobo Gigi
27 days ago

I’m surprised to see her swim in yards so close to the olympic trials.
She’s an exciting prospect in the 200 free, an event where Americans need new talents for the future.

Hswimmer
Reply to  Bobo Gigi
27 days ago

California pushed back their state meets

ChefJake
26 days ago

Verdolaga and Jiang are beasts! Keep an eye out for them in the next couple of years