Yes, Centennial High's prom was Saturday night, but if you're a Golden Hawks swimmer, you must have priorities.
Throwing coach David Graves in the pool after a league championship? Right at the top of the list.
For the second consecutive year, Centennial swept the Southwest Yosemite League boys and girls titles at the tri-league swimming championships Saturday at Bakersfield College, making it official: There's a new dominant swimming program in town.
"It's definitely a different dynamic to have the target on your back," said Graves, whose team was runner-up to Stockdale in many a league meet before this run. "Four years ago, we were underdogs, and now everybody wants to knock (us) off the pedestal. I'm just really proud we were able to repeat, boys and girls."
It was the girls third straight title. Before that, Stockdale had won 17 in a row. On the boys side, the Mustangs had won seven straight before Centennial broke the run last year.
The boys, buoyed by Andrew Hargis' two individual victories, easily out-pointed second-place Stockdale 376-277 after going undefeated in league duals. Hargis won the 200-yard individual medley (1:56.19) and the 500 freestyle (4:46.71), beating favored Chris Salcido of Independence in the latter race and dropping significant time in both.
The Golden Hawks also had Tyler Stabile win the 50 freestyle (22.64), and Stabile and Hargis, along with captain Chad Crawford and Lyle Drake, swam Centennial to victory in the meet-ending 400 freestyle relay (3:21.16).
Who needs prom when you’ve got performances like that?
"I’ll tell you what, it’s been amazing,” Crawford said. “Some of the best parts of high school for me have been these league meets. It’s just a blessing to have a team like this.”
Stockdale was able to stay close thanks to double victories from Brock Bonetti, who won the 100 freestyle in 47.73 and the 100 backstroke in 51.05, and Eric Sande (1:45.87 in the 200 freestyle and 1:00.39 in the 100 breaststroke). They also combined to lead the Mustangs to victories in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.
The only other individual boys SWYL title went to Frontier’s Evan Rabanal in the 100 butterfly (53.77).
On the girls side, Centennial dealt with a late hiccup when its 400 freestyle relay team was disqualified because of a false start, but the Golden Hawks had built enough of a cushion to beat second-place Liberty, 213-279.5.
“At that point we were pretty comfortable,” Graves said. “Now had that happened in the first relay, it would have been a different story. I mean, I’m not happy about it, but it didn’t really affect my day. We’ll just have to clean it up for next week.”
The best swimmers in the section converge again at BC on Friday and Saturday for the Central Section Championships. Swimmers must meet a time standard in their event to either automatically qualify or be considered for entry into the section finals — something all 17 of Centennial’s boys and most of its girls were able to do.
“The kids who came into this meet with times to get really did well,” Graves said. “Having all of our boys qualify is something we’ve never been able to do. It was just a great day.”
Centennial won the girls meet with depth — the Golden Hawks had just two individual wins, from Emily Cruz in the 200 freestyle (2:03.81) and McCall Miller in the 50 freestyle (26.31).
Frontier’s girls, who finished third as a team, took home four individual golds, two from Chandler Bullman (2:16.41 in the 200 IM, 1:00.33 in the 100 butterfly) and two from Jorie Caneta (5:17.88 in the 500 freestyle, 1:04.42 in the 100 breaststroke). The other individual titles went to Independence’s Morgan Regan (57.51 in the 100 freestyle) and Stockdale’s Tatum Collatz (1:02.30 in the 100 backstroke).
Garces holds off Highland in SEYL
In a tighter-than-expected Southeast Yosemite League girls race, Garces coach Bill Potter had a simple message for his 400 freestyle relay team: Don’t get ahead of yourself.
The Rams needed only to avoid last place — i.e., don’t false start — in the final race of the day to hold off surprising Highland. The Scots won the race, but Garces took second to win the meet, 360-353, and clinch an outright SEYL title after going undefeated in league dual meets.
“I just told the girls, ‘Whatever you do, don’t false start,’” Potter said. “We had one girl out with kidney stones and a few others not swim for various reasons, so we really needed some juniors and seniors to step up. And they did.”
One of those seniors, Anne Shambaugh, won individual titles in the 50 freestyle (26.55) and 100 butterfly (1:06.57), and freshman Amber Khieralla took home the 100 backstroke (1:06.44). The Rams also won the 200 freestyle relay.
That counteracted Highland’s elite duo of Taylor Solorio and Sara Baldridge, who won two titles each and helped the Scots take the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.
Solorio, a San Jose State-bound senior, blistered the field in the 200 freestyle (1:53.07, 10 seconds faster than any other swimmer in any league) and the 100 freestyle (53.24, four seconds faster than anyone else).
Garces’ boys team had an easier time of it, outscoring Highland 399-258, with Tehachapi a close third at 251. John Samson won the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle and Andrew Farr took the 50 freestyle (22.37).
Highland dominated the other discplines, first with a medley relay victory and then with five individual wins, two from Aiden Pike (51.78 in the 100 butterfly, 52.67 in the 100 backstroke) and two from Brian Bumgarner (200 IM, 100 breaststroke).
Ridgeview boys, GV girls win SYL
With its first-year coach finally comfortable, Ridgeview’s boys team flashed an array of talented swimmers to edge Mira Monte for the South Yosemite League boys championship, 243-227. Golden Valley was third in 201.
Four different Wolf Pack swimmers won individual titles — Brennan Nettleton in the 200 freestyle, Mikey Castenada in the 200 IM, Christian Martinez in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke, and Eryk Avial in the 100 breaststroke.
Ridgeview also began and ended the day with wins in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.
“Not bad at all,” Wolf Pack coach Carson Fackler said. “I wasn’t really sure how we were going to do, because it’s my first year coaching and the previous coach was a diver. So there were a lot of things we had to learn along the way to get on the same page with me. But it was kind of nice to have this clean slate.”
On the girls side, Golden Valley overcame an early disqualification in the 200 medley relay to clinch the SYL title with 288 points. Ridgeview was second at 229 with South third in 226.
The Bulldogs did it with depth — Ashley Mencias’ win in the 100 freestyle was their only individual title, but they won both freestyle relays and had a plethora of top-five finishes. That was enough to keep ahead of Ridgeview, which got two victories each from Emily Johnson (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly) and Heather Howell (200 IM, 100 backstroke).