By Robert Lewis, CCCSIA
CUPERTINO - The California Community College Athletic Association 2019 State Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Championships will again feature a formidable defending state women's champ in Orange Coast College while the men's title may be between Big 8 Conference foes Sierra and Diablo Valley. For the second straight year, De Anza College will be the host of the 3-day event, Thursday-Saturday, May 2-4.
On the women's side, OCC brings back four swimmers who made up various parts of four defending relay state champs, including Meghan Cluck, double state champ Kennedy Hood (50 and 100 freestyles), Kylie McCormick, and Cheyenne Morris. This season, Kluck has the state's best seed times in three different events and Pirates' teammate Riley Crow is a force in the two butterfly events.
Orange Coast won 18 events to win their fourth straight Orange Empire Conference title with Crow smashing the conference record in the 200 butterfly and Kluck doing the same in the 200 breaststroke. The pair were named Co-OEC Swimmers of the Year.
Besides Kluck, the meet's top female may be San Joaquin Delta's Madeline Wittkowske, who is the state leader in the 200, 500, and 1,650 freestyle events. She is the defending state champ in the mile swim.
In the men's competition, four teams come into the state meet with 900-plus point scoring performances in winning their respective conference team titles in Mt. San Antonio, school record 964 to capture the South Coast Conference crown, Riverside with 957 to win the Orange Empire title, Sierra's 914 that won the Wolverines their fourth straight Big 8 championship, and Grossmont, the winners of the PCAC tilte with 908.
Sierra was the state runner up last year and has top times in two relay events and along with familiar foe Diablo Valley, the two Big 8 squads have top 5 state times in all five relays.
Top individual swimmers include defending 1,650 freestyle champ Daniel Ilin of Sierra, last year's 400 individual medley winner Jason Harary of Mt. SAC, and Riverside's Erick Fathoni, who has the state's best seed times in the 200 freestyle and 200 IM.
Here is an event-by-event look at the favorites:
THURSDAY'S EVENTS (Prelims 9 a.m.; Finals: 4 p.m.; Diving, Noon)
W-200 Freestyle Relay
San Diego Mesa (1:39.72), Sierra, Orange Coast, American River, Santa Rosa, Diablo Valley and Santa Barbara City are all within .66 of a second of each other.
M-200 Freestyle Relay
Diablo Valley (1:23.08), Riverside (1:23.91), Sierra (1:24.14), and Ventura (1:24.18) all are capable of winning the event.
Wittkowske's 5:10 is the state best seed. She won the silver last year in 5:08.7.
Ilin took second last year, losing by just .20 of a second and his 4:33.42 current seed is more than five seconds faster than anyone else. His 4:26.43 state swim last year was even better.
Diablo Valley's Mia Ruffin (2:09.59) is expected to be challenged by American River's McKenzie Ayala, OCC's Morris, and Allan Hancock's Izzie Fraire, and Orange Coast's McCormick who was third last year.
Fathoni (1:50.11) and Harary (1:51.09) should make this versatile event a 2-man battle. Harary was state runner-up last year. Riverside's Javier Bernal has a slower seed time than when he took third in 2018 in 1:52.07.
The sprint last year was a 1-2-3 OCC finish and expect defending champion Hood (24.10 last year) and runner-up Kluck (top seed at 23.45) to be challenged by as many as six other swimmers all in the 24.51 to 24.71 range.
Ventura's Cooper Fuchs (sixth in last year's final) leads the field at 20.31, .30 faster than the next fastest seeded swimmer.
W-400 Medley Relay
Sierra (3:58.21) was the only team with a seed under 4 minutes, but OCC's Kluck, McCormick and Morris were part of a super fast 3:52.60 win last year.
M-400 Medley Relay
The largest seed time margin in any relay was turned in by Sierra in this event at 3:23.83, 4.7 seconds ahead of anyone else in this year's field.
W-1-Meter Diving Board
Last year saw a state points record set by Cypress champion Alejandra Gomez (254.10) and this year American River's Amy Crayne had a high NorCal score of 254.75 while no other diver reached the 200-point mark.
M-3-Meter Diving Board
Delta's Josh Hamby is back to defend his state title as he scored a North best 277.35 this year ahead of De Anza's Joseph Heilman (274.35).
FRIDAY'S EVENTS (Prelims 9 a.m.; Finals: 4 p.m.; Diving,Noon)
(NOTE: The 800 Free Relay is a timed final and will swim in event order during finals.)
W-200 Medley Relay
Sierra (1:49.09) will be tested by Orange Coast, SD Mesa, Las Positas, Diablo Valley and Santa Rosa.
M-200 Medley Relay
Mt. SAC (1:30.17) has nearly a 3-second seed time faster than the rest of the field.
El Camino's Ida Due (4:32.99) has nearly a 6-second advantage and Morris, last year's silver medalist, is again in a good spot with this year's second-best seed time.
Mt. SAC's Harary, the defending state champ, set a conference record coming in and is the only swimmer under 4 minutes this year at 3:59.83. While no event is a sure thing, this is as close to a prohibitive favorite as it gets.
Orange Coast's Crow established the best seed (56.85), but Ruffin and McCormick (7th last year) are within distance of the Crow's nest.
Pierce's Mario Marshall set a WSC conference record of 49.53 to be the favorite. Santa Monica's Oliver Kabilka and Colin Casey and Mt. SAC's Ethan Trieu are all a low 50 plus.
Last year, Wittkowske lost by just .44 of a second as she took second. Her 1:52.55 is the top seed this year and her biggest challenger could be Mesa's Allyson Hansen (1:53.09).
RCC's Fathoni set a Orange Empire conference record in 1:38.51 and that is the time to beat with Ilin, 1:39.44 silver medal swim last year, in striking distance.
Kluck (1:04 flat this year), last year's second place finisher, will go stroke for stroke with Pasadena City's Carmen Ung (school record 1:04.33). The two finished in a dead heat for first in this event at the Pasadena Invitational.
Sierra's Noah Scholar (fourth in last year's final) tops the field at 56.47 with teammate Jaysen Westlake next at 57.08.
Foothill's Maiha Mizuta heads the field at 57.59 and Mesa's Julie Parsons (placed third last year) is right behind at 57.76.
This one expects to be a war to the wall with Mt. SAC's Trieu (50.39) and Sierra's Gary Woo (50.41) separated by just. 02 of a second as the top two seeds. Woo was sixth in 2018 and SMC's Casey was eighth.
W-800 Freestyle Relay
Delta has the top time so far at 7:56.6 while OCC is in the running at 7:59.73 as well as SD Mesa at 8:00.24.
M-800 Freestyle Relay
Always a fan favorite, this event features Sierra and Mt. SAC already under 7 minutes and Riverside not far behind. Last year, OCC set a state meet record at 6:39.59.
W-3-Meter Diving Board
Crayne could challenge the state points record after recording a 265.30 score at the North finals (record 263.05). Next best is South champ and San Diego Mesa's Maya Fielding (188.85).
M-1-Meter Diving Board
Hamby will try to be a double state champ in two straight years (265.05 this year), but Heilman (256.40) and Rio Hondo's Aaron Augustine (252.15) will try to spoil the bid.
SATURDAY'S EVENTS (Prelims 9 a.m.; Finals: 4 p.m.)
(NOTE: The 1650 Freestyle is a timed final. The fastest heat will swim in event order during finals. The remaining heats will swim fastest to slowest, alternating women and men, immediately following the Swimming Prelims.)
Wittkowske is the defending state champ and she has already shaved 25 seconds of that winning time (17:31.81 seed). Due will try to keep up (17:40.04).
Last year, Ilin won the title at 15:58.11 and SMC's Matt Holt was second. This year, Holt has the fastest seed time (16:21.44) but expect the two to battle again for the mile gold.
Mesa's Parsons took the silver last year but her state-leading seed time doesn't approach her 2:04.93 of 2018. Mizuta is the second fastest this year (2:08.4).
Harary placed fifth last year, but he has a significant 2.5 second faster time than the field at 1:50.44.
Hansen has the top seed mark (52.18) but she will have her arms full to try to beat defending champ Hood (52.43 last year), Bakersfield's Daran Towns (53.03) and DVC's Taylor Cossu (53.20).
Seven swimmers are less than a second behind current top seed Las Positas' Esteban Perez Del Rio (45.09). Talented sprinters Fuchs and Marshall are expected to be in the medal mix.
This event has all the makings of a classic. Kluck set an OEC conference record for the top seed in the event at 2:23.18 and Hancock's Fraire also set a WSC record of 2:23.55. Sierra's Danielle Brown (seventh last year) is at 2:24.52 and PCC's Ung set a school record of 2:24.72.
Sierra has the monopoly on the seeds behind top 3 swimmers Joseph Dutra (2:05.75), Scholar and Westlake. Scholar took fourth last year in 2:04.02 and Westlake placed seventh.
Crow set an OEC record of 2:05.99 and has a giant 5.69 second margin ahead of the next fastest seeded swimmer.
This figures to be a hotly-contested swim with Mt. SAC's Jonathan Olvera (1:52.55) and Casey (1:52.60 who finished sixth last season) also dealing with last year's silver medalist Bernal of Riverside (1:52.47 at the '18 meet) and longshot Michael Humphrey of Pasadena.
W-400 Freestyle Relay
The OCC trio of Kluck, Morris and Hood won this event last year and the Pirates have the top seed at 3:37.91. Diablo Valley will try to overtake them (3:38.18).
M-400 Freestyle Relay
Time will tell how important this race is by meet's standings end with Diablo Valley (3:06.08), Riverside (3:06.56), and Sierra (3:06.64) all trying to get the gold.