CUPERTINO - A change of venue for the 2018 California Community College Swimming and Diving Championship has brought the state meet back to Northern California for the first time since 2007 as De Anza College is the site of the meet this Thursday-Saturday, May 3-5.
East Los Angeles College had hosted the last seven seasons. De Anza’s pool also will be the first outdoor facility since Mt. San Antonio hosted the 2010 state meet. Ohlone College was the last North host in 2007.
While some years, the team titles have been up for grabs, this year is shaping up to be a possible double title for Orange Coast College, a school that dominated in winning the Orange Empire Conference Championships in both genders. The women’s team won a remarkable 18 conference events and have eight of the top seeds of the 20 state events.
The men’s team is just as potent with nine top state times, including four in the relays. In fact, the Pirates times in the 400-yard and 800-yard freestyle relays already are faster than the state meet records in those events.
In the men’s team race, OEC 2nd place and defending state champ Golden West, Big 8 champion Sierra and PCAC champ San Diego Mesa figure to put up good numbers. On the women’s side, OCC’s competition include last year’s state champ Sierra and always strong Santa Rosa as WSC champ Santa Barbara City.
Golden West was the last school to perform the double team titles in 2013 and Orange Coast also did the trick in 2011.
Individually, a number of great swimmers are featured throughout the 3-day meet. For the men, San Diego Mesa’s Brandon Crabtree, the 2016 Men’s State Swimmer of the Year and state meet record holder in the 100 butterfly (47.95) returns. A winner of three events that year, Crabtree is the this year’s leader in the 50 freestyle and 100 fly while second best in the 100 free.
OCC’s Hayden Hemmens has the fastest 2018 times in three events—the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 200 backstroke. A son of a U.S. Olympic canoe sprinter-Deanne Hemmens (1996 Summer Olympics), Hayden is joined at the state meet by his younger brother and fellow Pirate Reece Hemmens, who has the fastest mark in the 100 freestyle.
Golden West’s Santiago Rivera is a top seed in the 200 and 400 individual medleys. Diablo Valley’s Bang Kai Chao is also chasing two possible state titles as the premier CCC swimmer in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Rivera just happens to be No. 2 in the 200 breast.
Pasadena City’s Samuel Jo was a 2-time state champ in the 100 and 200 backstrokes last year, but has a better chance to repeat in the 100 as he is one of four swimmers whose times are within .07 of a second from each other.
While SoCal swimmers lead many events, the mile swim has a NorCal leader in Sierra’s Daniel Ilin.
In the women’s competition, defending double state champ Melissa Cienega, from Pasadena, has swam away from the field in distance freestyle in ’18. She has an opportunity to win three events this year as the No. 1 seed in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 1,650 freestyle. Cienega was Co-Swimmer of the Year in the South Coast Conference for the second straight year.
The other top SCC swimmer is Mt. San Antonio’s Ashley Tse, who is aiming for titles as the woman to beat in the 200 breaststroke and 200 IM. Her conference record 200 breaststroke of 2:16.70 is much faster than the state record set last year by Cuesta’s Lauren Davis (2:18.88). Her 200 IM of 2:03.97 is nearly seven seconds faster than the 2-seed as Tse attempts to break the longest standing state meet record left in ether gender, set by Chaffey’s Elsa Nasution (2:03.48) in 1997.
A returner from 2016, Orange Coast’s Lauren Weins was a member of that year’s State Performance of the Year award when she helped the Pirates set the 200 medley relay state record of 1:44.27. Weins is the top seed in the 100 and 200 backstroke events and is a close No. 2 seed in the 100 butterfly. She was the OEC Co-Swimmer of the Year.
West Valley’s Mary Faridnia has the top seed times in the 100 and 200 butterfly events. Delta’s Madeline Wittkowske is another talent as she held No. 2 seed times in the 500 and 1,650 freestyles.
In the diving competition, Cypress’ Alejandra Gomez will try to repeat her 2017 3-meter board title but will be challenged by this season’s SoCal champ and SD Mesa’s Ashley Dettman as well as Saddleback’s Sarah Duke. In the 1-meter board, all three will also be in the hunt with Duke so far the current points seed leader.
In men’s diving, SD Mesa’s Jon Rios Brady will be tough to defeat on either board as he was the SoCal champion with significant high scores. He will be challenged by San Joaquin Delta’s double north NorCal champ Josh Hamby as well as defending 1-meter board state champ Noah Luna from Chaffey.
With 52 state meet records set in the seven previous years at the ELAC Swim Stadium, De Anza’s pool should provide for more exciting swims and likely some more state meet records.
(Robert Lewis, CCCSIA, for the CCCAA, State Swim Meet SID)