LOS ANGELES, May 7. EL TORO High senior Kaitlin Sandeno has done it all in her rather abbreviated but highly productive swimming career. She's been an Olympian, finaled in the "Big Show" and won Olympic bronze, set innumerable records and won innumerable races.
But the future Trojan has yet to set her first national prep record. However, all that may change this weekend at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool when Sandeno swims her final high school races at the Southern Section CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) Championships.
Presumably because of its vast size, California does not conduct a statewide swimming championship (although it does in basketball and a host of other sports, including track and field). Rather, under the auspices of the CIF it sponsors various regional championships (based upon common geography). The Southern Section — stretching from San Luis Obispo on the north to the southern tip of Orange County in the opposite direcrtion — is the largest and arguably most prestigious of all the sections, comprising more than 600 schools.
It's also among the most competitive and productive, having developed such Olympic and World Champion gold medalists-world record-setters as Janet Evans, Tim Shaw, Brian Goodell, Bruce Furniss, Cynthia Woodhead, Shirley Babashoff, Jesse Vassallo, et al.
So when Sandeno mounts the blocks Friday evening she'll have a lot of history to contend with and the question is: what will she swim? Last year she won the 500 free in a nation-leading 4:43+ as a junior and also went 54.63 to win the 100 fly to rank second nationally. She's dropped her 500 pr to 4:39.09 this year and may want to take a crack at Evans' 4:37.60 national prep record from this same meet 13 years ago.
Or Sandeno could go the 100 fly again and perhaps have a shot at breaking Olympic teammate Misty Hyman's 52.41 national record, set more than four years ago.
Mary Descenza, Sandeno's World Championship teammate swam 53.13–the second fastest prep time in history– en route to the Illinois state title last November while swimming for Rosary High. Descenza's also the national leader in the 200 free (1:48.15) but nothing's necessarily out of reach for "Kate the Great."
Since she's a member of the U.S.A.'s World Championship team in the 400 IM and the world leader, Sandeno might opt for the 200 IM-500 free combo. If so, she could topple Natalie Coughlin's medley standard of 1:58.45 that she set last season for Corondolet High at the CIF North Coast Championships in Berkeley. (The public school record is 1:58.91 by 1996 Olympian, Alison Wagner.)
All Coughlin did in her initial year at Cal this season was break seemingly "unbreakable" American-NCAA records in the 100-200 back, and was named Swimer of the Meet for her exploits. Many observers believe that had she opted to swim the 200 IM on the meet's first day, rather than both relays (200-400 medley), she would have gotten that record too. As it turned out, Auburn's Maggie Bowen broke the 200 IM mark set by Summer Sanders when she was at Stanford a decade ago.
Some other top underclassmen who will be swimming this weekend at Belmont include junior Erin Seiper of Esperanza, whose 1:01.90 was fastest in the 100 breast last season; San Clemente's Kristen Caverly, whose 1:02.22 ranked her fourth nationally and who also was amiong the leaders in the 200 IM off her 2:00.10; and Irvine High junior Aaron Peirsol, who was silver medalist in Sydney in the 200 backstroke and just six weeks ago swam the second-fastest 200 meter backstroke of all-time at the U.S. World Championship Trials.
Up north, Campolindo High junior Kim Vandenberg will be after Christine Swindle's national records in the 50-100 frees (22.62-49.33) at the CIF Central Coast Section Championships next weekend in Santa Clara. Vandenberg led the country as a soph last season in the 100 free (CCS record 49.42), and ranked second in the 50 (23.08). At a Speedo Regional Championship a couple of months ago in Clovis, she went nice unshaved times of 23.0-49.6.
Swindle, also a junior, set her pair of national prep records last November at Orlando during the Florida state high school championships — and her times have withstood all onslaughts in the intervening seven months. (Editor's note: when we refer to "prep record" we are referring to the fastest time ever swum in a particular event by a student during high school competition, be he or she from a public, parochial or private school.)
In the CIF North Coast Championships, scheduled for the third week of the month at Cupertino High's fast pool, Clayton Valley junior Laura Davis will be after Coughlin's 200 IM record, as will senior Artemis Daphnis of Homestead. Davis, who trains with Coughlin on the Terrapins' swim team, went a nation-leading 1:59.21 last season while Daphnis ranked No. 2 off her 1:59.93. Davis is also a talented breaststroker with a pr of 1:02.21 – fourth-fastest last season.
The 200 IM national leader is Tami Ransom of Cincinnati St. Ursula, who went a pr 1:58.74 (Ohio state record) at a regional meet a week before the Buickeye state's title meet in late February. That swim ranks Ransom No. 2 all-time among prep IMers.
Around the country there has been some fast swimming during the 2000-01 academic year, although it hasn't produced the wealth of fast times that were so prevalent last season. However, last season was an Olympic year and while not too many prepsters (save for Peirsol, Sandeno and Megan Quann — now a pro) made the plane to Sydney, the possibility of scoring high at the Trials was a tremendous motivator.
In any event, on the boys' side Bolles School senior Clay Kirkland is the national-leader in the 50-200 frees (20.68-1:35.81) while Germantown junior Fran Crippen is fastest in the 500 free (4:21.32), just off his nation-leading 4:20.44 from last season. He's also the "kid" brother of Villanova All-America Maddie, who's been a member of numerous U.S . Nationals during her stellar career. Kirkland was national-leader last year in the 100-200 frees (44.80-1:37.01).
St. Xavier's Stanford-bound Jayme Cramer leads the rankings in the 100 back-fly (Ohio state records 47.65-49.69) although both times are just shy of his prs (47.45-47.65) set at the Y Nationals. Cramer's 47.65 is just off the national mark of 47.50 by Irvine Woodbridge's Derya Buyukuncu from 1994 (set, we might add, at the CIF Southern Section meet!). St. Xavier was the home of former Cardinal All-America Joe Hudepohl, a Barcelona Olympian and still the national record-holder in the 100-200 frees.
Lake Forest (Illinois') Matt Grevens' 44.40 is No. 1 in the 100 free and Champaign (Illinois) Dan Trupin leads in the 200 IM (1:48.15). His 48.69 for the 100 fly is also among the national leaders.
Swimming World will crown its national champs for both public and independent schools (girls/boys) in its August issue, and the All-America lists will also be published then.
– Bill Bell
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