Irvine High Keeps on Rolling, Wins Southern Section Calif. CIF High School Div. I Titles

BELMONT SHORES, CA., May 11 — Back in the heyday of the Mission Viejo-Florida Aquatics cross-continent rivalry during the 1970s and '80s, FAST stars David McCagg and David Larson would sport t-shirts showing an oversized gator torching a¬†Spanish-style building with the words "Burn Down the Mission" inscribed underneath. This was, of course, a not-so-veiled reference to Florida's desire to thwart Mission from winning yet another national team championship — a then quixotic quest at best. These days the slogan should read: "Unhorse the Vaqueros."

For the fifth-consecutive year on the girls' side and the second on the boys', Irvine High's Vaqueros splashed to the Southern Section California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division 1 Championships at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool today.

Before an overflow crowd of nearly 2000 rabid fans, Irvine won the girls' title over San Clemente, 294-178, with Laguna Hills an oh-so-close third (177.5).
On the boys' side, Irvine won by a 279-213 margin over Santa Margarita with Newport Harbor (195) third.

Used to be that Mission Viejo was the dominant Division 1 team but the Diablos could only manage a fourth-place finish in boys' competition and were not among the Top 5 teams on the distaff side. How the might have fallen!

Coach Scott Hinman's Vaquero ladies got the proceedings off to a rousing start by blasting the national record in the 200 medley relay (1:45.18 by Arizona's Shadow Mountain in 1995) with their 1:44.80 clocking. That former national mark included among its team members a certain rather prominent butterflyer who won gold last September in Sydney in the 200 by beating the "unbeatable" Susie O'Neill, then came back and helped Stanford finish runners-up to Georgia this past season at NCAAs and won the 200 fly there too. For the uninitiated we refer of course to Misty Hyman.

Freshman Diana MacManus, who would later splash to the the 100 back title in a meet-record and pr 54.69, led off in a sizzling 25.57. Sarah Hamilton, a sophomore, split 30.53 for the breaststroke leg; junior Flora Kong touched in 25.42 for the fly segment and freshman Courtney Cashion anchored in a swift 23.28. Cashion later became an upset winner with her come-from-behind 100 free tiumph.

The old meet record was 1:46.17 by Capistrano Valley from 1983 and the old California state record was 1:45.49 by Davis from 1995. That Davis team, incidentally, featured future University of Arizona All-America Denali Knapp.

Next was the 200 free, where Canyons' junior Erin Volcan took the measure of Newport Harbor junior and former age group wunderkind Carly Geehr, 1:49.41-1:49.42. Geehr actually led until the last few yards, when Volcan surged ahead and held on for the victory.
The meet, state and national prep record of 1:45.98 was set here in 1982 by former Mission Viejo star and also former world-American record-holder Cynthia Woodhead.

That 1:49.41-1:49.42 pairing also represnts the seecond and third fastest times nationally for 2000-01, with the No. 1 a 1:48.47 by Ursuline Academy sophomore Whitney Myers from the Ohio state championships in Canton last February.

The 200 IM was another fast race, with San Clemente soph Kristen Caverly — a name to bear in mind the next few years — racing to a sectional-record and pr 1:58.86. That time ranks Caverly No. 2 nationally behind Cincinnati St. Xavier's Tami Ransom's 1:58.74, and is also just off the state-national record of 1:58.45 by Carondolet's Natalie Coughlin from last year. With another year of hard training under her belt, a 1:57-high, 1:58-low for Caverly here next year is definitely not out of the question.

Last season Caverly won in 2:00.80, so in a year she's dropped two full seconds. The old meet record was a 2:00.19 by 100 fly-500 free champ Kaitlin Sandeno, who did the time as a soph two yers ago. The overall section record was a 1:59.96 by America's sweetheart, Janet Evans, who did it as a senior 13 years ago prior to winning three golds at the Seoul Olympics. Evans still holds world records in the 400-800-1500 frees and also the American-NCAA records in the 500-1650 yards from her days at Stanford.

A few events later, Caverly just missed the national record in the 100 beast (1:00.74) with her state and meet record 1:01.67, splitting 29.67 en route. She was chased home by Esperanza super freshman Erin Seiper (1:01.89), marking the first time two prep girls have ever been under 1:02.0 in the same race.

The old Division 1 record was a 1:01.79 by Arizona Olympian Amanda Beard when she was swimming for Irvine and the old state record was a 1:01.77 by curent Cal star Stacana Stitts, who prepped at San Diego's Carlsbad High.

The national record belongs to Pennylvania's Kristen Woodring (1:00.74), of Wilson High, who swam that time during a state sectional meet in the spring of '99 as a junior. She opted to not compete in high school as a senor but instead trained with her club coach in Arizona in hopes of making the 2000 Olympic team, which she did not.

As a freshwoman for the Nittany Lions last February she was named Big 10 Swimmer of the Meet and set a loop record with her 100 win (pr 59.77, fourth and eighth on the all-time performers'-performances rankings).

MacManus' 54.69 100 back win broke the old Division 1 record of 55.26 by Buena Ventura's Nicole Beck from 1995 and ranks her second nationally to Houston freshman Hayley McGregory, who zipped a 54.65 at the Texas state meet in Austin in February.

The national record is 52.86 by Coughlin as a sophomore three seasons ago. The former Carondolet star blasted the American record (52.47) by Stanford's Catherine Fox with her mind-boggling 51.23 at this year's NCAAs while representing Cal — and she's just a freshman!

In the 50 free, San Clemente senior Sara Jones' 23.04 broke the D1 record of 23.07 by Whittier Christian's Jenna Johnson from 1984. Johnson went on to star at Stanford and was 1986 NCAA champ in the 100 fly for the Cardinal.

However, in the 100, the Princeton-bound Jones came a cropper to Irvine freshman Cashion, whose last-lap charge resulted in a 50.22-50.45 victory. Cashion had been second in the 50 free(23.57). Swimming in lane 5 to Jones' lane 4, Cashion — who breathes left — used her big kick to edge ahead with about 5 yards left and that was "all she wrote."

Aside from Caverly, the sole other double winner was USC-bound Kaitlin Sandeno, who splashed to meet records in the 100 fly (53.62) and 500 free (4:39.64), thus defending her titles from last season. Sandeno's fly time broke the old record of 54.55 also held by Johnson, and her 500 effort snapped the 16-year-old mark of 4:40.04 by Mission Viejo's Kim Brown. So Evans' national record of 4:37.30 from '88 remains intact for another year.

Sandeno's 100 fly is No. 2 nationally to Aurora Rosary's Mary Descenza's 53.13 and her 500 leads the nation and ranks her third all-time behind Janet Evans and Janelle Atkinson.

Runner-up in the 500 was San Marino soph Adrienne Binder, who went 4:44.04 to drop her pr by some 10 seconds. Third was Newport Harabor's Hayley Peirsol, sister of Olympic silver medalist Aaron, who went a 4:55.02. If Binder drops another 10 secosnds by next season, it won't just be Evans' prep record that'll be threatened — it's be her American record (4:34.39)!

In the 200 free relay, Caverly's sub-23 anchor split gave San Clemente the win in 1:36.71, No. 1 nationally, a DI record and also tying the state record from 1995.

Irvine's winning 3:28.14 in the 400 free relay also broke the old meet and state record of 3:28.46 by San Clemente two years ago and gave the Vaqueros the No. 1 national time. Irvine's team included Cashion leading off, followed by Miho Umezawa, Kong, and Stephanie Hsiao. The Vaqueros are comprised mainly of underclasswomen so they could make it seven-straight next year.

On the boys side, Newport Harbor High junior Aaron Peirsol defended his 200 free-100 back titles he won last year, going 1:38.62-48.12 — both prs.

The national record in the 100 back is 47.50 by Irvine Woodbridge's Durya Buyuncku from the 1994 Championships, a time Peirsol seemingly should be able to break with ease considering he's been 54.80 for the 100 back long course. The fastest prep backstroker of all-time is Alex Lim of the Bolles School, who went 46.82 at the Florida Championships in November of 1999 at Orlando. Lim was a freshman at Cal this last season and represents Malaysia internationally.

In any event, as noted earlier, Peirsol was the sole boys' doubler, and he also anchored Newport's wining 200-400 free relays.

Irvine winners incluided the 200 medley relay squad (1:37.76) and the 100 fly by Gonzo Shimura (50.34).

Other event winners included Santa Margarita's Harris Radie in the 200 IM (1:53.88), Dana Hills' Scott Baer the 50 free (21.28 from lane 8), Laguna Hills' Michael Hilde the 1 meter diving (610.25 points), Santa Margarita's Jon Russell the 100 free (46.49), Servite's Adam Hweko in the 500 free (All-America 4:29.19), and Redlands' Evan Castro the 100 breast (57.02).

In many respects Irvine High today is what Mission Viejo High was two decades ago, i.e., a "farm club" for the varsity – in this case Coach Dave Salo's Irvine Novas rather than Mark Schubert's Nadadores.
Interestingly, however, Novas' arguably "biggest gun" (Peirsol) swims for Newport Harbor, but then many Nadadores grew up swimming for El Toro or Capo Valley too.

(full individual team results may be obtained by logging onto

The meet annually attracts top collegiate coaches from around the nation, and this year was no exception. On hand were Cal's Nort Thornton and Terri McKeever, Michigan's Jon Urbancek (who used to coach at Cal. State Long Beach in the late '70s), assistants from Arizona and Stanford and USC aide Larry Liebowitz.

–Bill Bell
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