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    Santa Margarita boys and girls continue Division 1 reign at CIF-SS swimming finals
    • May 5, 2024

    Santa Margarita boys and girls win the CIF Southern Section Division 1 swimming championships, and celebrated with jumping to the pool on Saturday, May 4, 2024 at the Mt. San Antonio College Aquatic Center. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

    WALNUT — The Santa Margarita and Loyola boys swimming and diving teams have developed a rivalry the past five seasons that probably ranks among the most competitive in the CIF Southern Section.

    The Eagles and Cubs battled again for first place Saturday at the Division 1 championships at Mt. San Antonio College.

    Santa Margarita came out on top again, capturing the team title over Loyola for the fourth consecutive season.

    The Eagles finished with 382 points and the Cubs were second with 345 points.

    The Northwood, JSerra and Tesoro boys teams finished fourth, fifth and sixth with 281, 181 and 126 points, respectively.

    “The seniors in particular have just been such tremendous leaders all the way, showing the younger guys what it takes to move on next year,” Eagles co-head coach Ron Blanc said. “But it took us 35 years coaching to win a boys title and now the guys have won four in a row.”

    Santa Margarita swimmers and coaches hold up four fingers after the boys team won its fourth consecutive Division 1 title at the CIF-SS swimming and diving championships Saturday, May 4, at Mt. San Antonio College. (Photo by Lou Ponsi)

    In the boys’ 200-yard medley relay, the Santa Margarita team of Ramon Jiang (50 backstroke), Nathan Wu (breaststroke), Daniel Verdolaga (butterfly) and Jerry Yan (freestyle) won in a Division 1 record time of 1 minute, 29.08 seconds. The record had been 1:29.30, which the Eagles set last year.

    The last boys race of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay, was also the day’s best race. The Northwood foursome of Derek Hitchens, Elson Lee, Will Chen and Andrew Maksymowski were in a virtual tie for the entire race with Santa Margarita’s Ramon Jung, Daniel Verdolaga, Adam Lee and Hunter Cehelnik.

    The Timberwolves won, touching in 2:59.15, and the Eagles finished second in 2:59.37.

    Fountain Valley sophomore Peter Vue, one of the highly seeded younger competitors in the meet, finished second to San Marino standout Daniel Li in the 100 free.

    Li, a Stanford commit, won in 53.05 and Vu finished in 54.63.

    “I’ve been having a good block of training the past few months,” Vu said. “I just want to see what I can do and go as fast as I can and I think I did well.”

    There were no surprises on the girls side, with Santa Margarita dominating the field and winning its 10th consecutive Southern Section title.

    The Eagles scored 439 points, more than doubling Mira Costa’s second-place score of 180.

    JSerra, Fountain Valley and Portola were fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively.

    “It’s legendary,” Eagles co-head coach Rich Blanc said. “It’s just one for the history books. We never talk about (it). Each team wants to create their own identity and have their own success and then carry that forward to future generations.”

    The Eagles’ Teagan O’Dell, perhaps a future Olympian and the top swimmer in the meet, broke her own Division 1 record in the 200 individual medley, winning in 1:53.63, about four-tenths of a second faster than the record she set last year.

    However, O’Dell fell just short of besting the national high school record of 1:53.38, which she also holds.

    Teagan O’Dell of Santa Margarita High School competes in the girls 200-yard individual medley for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 swimming championships, beating her own record on Saturday, May 4, 2024 at the Mt. San Antonio College Aquatic Center. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

    “It wasn’t a goal to break the (national) record … but I couldn’t have been happier with going 1:53.63 today,” O’Dell said. “I’m happy with it. The goal was to kind of just come in and have fun with it and just be in the moment here before I have to focus for (Olympic) trials here in about a month.”

    O’Dell said she will not compete in next week’s CIF State Championship meet to focus on the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis in June.

    The Cal commit was 14 years old the first time she swam in the Olympic Trials.

    “Yeah, so going back three years later now, I’m so excited to just be there,” O’Dell said, “see some friends that I haven’t seen in a while, and just see some really awesome things.”

    Fountain Valley freshman Alyssa Ton, one of the Barons’ young standouts, won the 200 free in 1:45.96, finishing just ahead of Portola sophomore Ava DeAnda (1:46.70).

    “She’s a talented athlete,” Fountain Valley coach Nathan Wilcox said. “I think she’s going to have a long, successful career. We’re just making sure we manage everything the next four years and make sure we come back and work on getting better every year.”

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    ​ Orange County Register