With a bevy of top-end talent and depth to match, the Torrey Pines girls and boys swimming & diving teams swam roughshod over some formidable opposition to record their 10th and fifth consecutive CIF Division I championships respectively Saturday, May 4, at Del Norte High School.
The Falcon women were particularly devastating, sweeping all three relays, the 200 medley (1:42.94) and 200 freestyle (1:35.02) in new section record times, and accounting for five of the eight individual titles. Their 517 total points topped runner-up Carlsbad by an astounding 227. With the fourth place finish by San Marcos, Avocado West League teams snagged three of the top four spots.
The Torrey Pines men were nearly as impressive, registering three individual and one relay win while out-distancing second place Carlsbad, 353-216. With Canyon Crest, Mission Hills and San Marcos claiming third, fifth and sixth, it was five Avo West squads in the top six on the boys’ side.
The results might seem a bit repetitive for Torrey Pines opponents, but veteran Torrey Pines Head Coach Richard Contreras guarantees the satisfaction remains the same. “Winning the CIF championship is obviously a big thrill and never gets old,” Contreras said afterward. “The genuine excitement that’s part of this event reflects the hard work that these kids and coaches put in every year. This was the most CIF records we’ve ever had in one season which is indicative of just how strong this year’s team(s) was.”
Of all the noteworthy performances, perhaps none was as impressive or timely as the girls’ meet-opening domination of the 200 medley relay. The quartet, consisting of seniors Leah Coffin and Amelia Cho, sophomore Mia Kragh and junior Kira Crage, knocked nearly two seconds off the section mark that had been established by rival La Costa Canyon just hours before in the CIF D-II championships held at the same site.
“I thought they would win, but I was not expecting 1:42,” said Contreras. “To start the meet that way was unreal. Records just aren’t broken by that much—it’s going to stand for a long, long time.”
Crage was her consistently brilliant self in the sprints, touching first for the third consecutive year in both the 50 (23.20) and 100 (50.65) freestyles. She led a 1-2-3 Falcon finish in the latter. Sophomore Kragh (100 butterfly/54.14) and junior Cameron Collins (500 freestyle/4:52.24) earned their first section titles and Cho lowered her prelim time by more than a second to capture the 100 breaststroke (1:03.15) for the third year in a row.
Kragh, who had the fastest qualifying time by more than two seconds had to hold off late charges by two seniors, Carlsbad’s Lindsay Turner and her teammate Leah Coffin, to prevail by less than two-tenths of a second. “I was planning to keep a good pace in the first 50 and bring it home in the second,” said Kragh, who also finished second behind Crage in the 50 freestyle. “But I think I went out a little fast, so coming back was a lot harder than I anticipated.” She also admitted to having mixed emotions about ending Coffin’s bid for a four-year career sweep of the event.
“I train with Leah all the time, even on our club team, so we’re always together which made it very bittersweet,” said Kragh. “It’s always special to race her—she’s super and like most of the older girls on the team has always been so helpful—I have great teammates.”
In the 500 free, recent UC Santa Barbara commit Collins surged in the last 25 yards to nip teammate Rylee Gordillo by 0.16 seconds. “I just really wanted to get to the wall faster,” said Collins. “I wasn’t surprised that Rylee was out there because I know what she can do but I used whatever energy I had left because I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
For the Falcon boys, the leading man was junior Stephan Lukashev who sat out last year’s high school campaign to concentrate on the club long course season. He showed he was back with a vengeance Saturday, swimming a blazing leg on Torrey’s CIF record-breaking 200 medley relay team (1:32.16), then collecting gold in both the 50 freestyle (20.21) and 100 butterfly (47.52), tying a section mark in the free and breaking the standard in the fly. Two days earlier, after the prelims, he wasn’t ready to play the starring role.
“Honestly, I was not that confident Thursday, not feeling it,” recalled Lukashev after his win in the 50. “But yesterday, coach got me going again and I swam one of the fastest races in my life on 50 fly leg of the relay. I wanted to lay down the law in to 50 free and I did.
“For me in that race, the key is focus. When I swam that race in 2017, I was looking all over the place and wasn’t focused. Today, I just concentrated on being in the zone and didn’t look at anyone. I got off the blocks as fast as I could and just got back as quick as possible.”
The time he delivered in the 100 butterfly surprised even Lukashev and left Contreras shaking his head. “That 100 fly was scintillating, really,” said Contreras, who has seen his share of outstanding performances. “It was the kind of swim that makes the hair stand up on your arms.”
One lowlight for the Falcon boyos was a disqualification in the 200 freestyle relay, a race they won handily otherwise, but they got a highlight effort in the meet’s concluding individual event, the 100 breaststroke. Senior Justin Lee took that one, turning back Mission Hills’ Ethan Hildesheim (who he deadheated with in the recent Avocado West meet) as well as senior teammate and defending champ Kaito Koyama in a blanket finish. His time of 56.31 erased a section record that had stood since 1999.
In or out of the pool, it was a team that was distinctive to Contreras. “This year’s team was just a lot of fun,” he said. “The kids were so great, so enthusiastic and were positive, whatever the situation. It was a very easy group and might be the strongest girls’ squad we’ve ever had.”
For the girls, there still might be worlds to conquer. This coming weekend (May 10-11), for just the second time as a team, the Falcons will be heading to the CIF State Championship meet in Clovis. During a meeting back in December, it was decided that everyone who qualified (top eight in section) would commit to making the trip.
“We’re going up with there with intent,” said Contreras. “Most of our kids were not rested to the max for CIF so it’s probable they will go faster at State. As a team, we’re hoping for at least a top three finish.”