FRESNO — The fist pump said it all.
Liberty’s Julio Alcantar was a sophomore in 2015 during the inaugural CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships.
For the past two years, Alcantar has pushed himself to become the best, and at the Central Section Division I Swimming Championships on Saturday at Clovis West High School, Alcantar became the lone Kern County swimmer to win a D-I individual title. He could barely contain his excitement afterward.
“It feels great, man,” Alcantar said. “I’ve been waiting all year for this … It’s huge, man. I am so psyched up right now. I am so excited that I get to go to state individually.”
Alcantar won the boys 100-yard backstroke in a time of 53.38 seconds, edging out Centennial’s Sam Carlson (54.17).
Liberty coach Marc Urmston calls Alcantar “wild and uncontrollable,” but “it’s amazing to watch him control himself and poise himself on the top.”
“He gives you everything he’s got,” Urmston added. “He has some times where he felt that he should have won and came up short. But that’s swimming. That helped with all of the work he has put in over the years and he’s proud of it, and should be.”
Alcantar also finished fifth overall in the 200 free (1:44.22).
Alcantar will not be alone in representing Kern County at the CIF State Championships next Friday and Saturday at Clovis West.
Colin Rabanal watched his older brother, Evan, the 2015 BVarsity Boys Swimmer of the Year, advance to the inaugural state championships two years ago.
Last season Rabanal felt the pain of coming in third at the section finals knowing that only the top two places move on to state.
On Saturday, now a junior at Frontier, Rabanal edged out Austin Krietemeyer of Clovis West by .44 of a second for second place in the boys 100 freestyle.
This time around, instead of feeling deflated, Rabanal looked to the scoreboard north of the pool and threw his left arm up in the air in celebration and a sense of relief.
“That’s exactly what I had,” Rabanal said. “Last year it felt just like that, but it was third place. I am excited for this. I am excited because I am on that even playing with my brother. Now there is no more, ‘I’m just his little brother.’ We are just brothers now.”
On the girls side, Frontier junior Ariane Skeggs came in as a favorite for a state bid in the 500 freestyle, but found herself moving on in the 200 free.
Skeggs finished second overall in the 200 free behind Abby Samansky of Clovis West. Skeggs time of 1:51.84 was .45 of a second ahead of fourth place finisher and teammate Kassidy Lemminn.
“I am really excited, it’s going to be really fun,” Skeggs said. “I am just happy to drop time.”
Skeggs finished in third place in the 500 free (5:04.93).
Centennial senior Sam Carlson had his personal best time in the boys 50 free, but in the ultimate speed race in a pool, Carlson’s time of 21.60 was just .01 of a second from the top two.
Coaches hammer to swimmers the need to shed down anything they can; weight, body hair, dom caps, tech suits — all of it is taken into consideration for the off chance that a race that ends in a photo finish.
Carlson finished second in the boys 100 back to Alcantar in the D-I finals, but his time of 54.17 was third overall behind D-II champion Cade Martin of Coalinga, who swam 53.08, the top time in the section finals.
There were other locals who stood on the podium at Clovis West with top-five finishes.
The Liberty girls 200 medley relay of Rachelle McCormick, Eliana Klubnikin, Slaytynn Simpson and Payton Lewis finished fourth (1:52.66).
The Centennial boys 200 medley relay of Carlson, Alex Castro, Chris Feola and Esteban Robles also finished fourth in 1:39.26.
Lemminn, the two-time BVarsity Girls Swimmer of the Year, also finished fourth in the 200 free (1:52.29) and a third in the 100 free (52.80).
Garces senior Cael Osborn finished fourth in the boys 50 free (21.75), and his teammate Lee Begin finished fifth in the boys 500 free (4:47.09).
Frontier’s Zachary Parham placed fourth in the boys 100 butterfly (53.34) while Frontier finished fourth and Liberty fifth in the girls 200 free relay. Centennial boys 200 free relay team finished fifth.
Castro finished fifth in the boys 100 breaststroke (1:01.30), and fellow Centennial swimmer Shelby Drake finished fifth in the girls 100 back (1:00.58).
Garces finished fifth in the boys team scoring, and the foursome of Chance Miller, Eric Klang, Begin and Osborn finished fifth in the 400 free relay (3;14.60).