Hart, Valencia swim split Foothill League dual meet

Valencia's Nikol Popov won CIF titles in the 100 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley this season. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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There wasn’t a loud, raucous celebration, the kind one might expect in a contest decided in the closing moments.

Instead, the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center remained quiet enough Wednesday to hear Hart coach Steve Neale coo across the pool.

“Nice swim, gentlemen,” he said to his boys 400-yard freestyle relay team, fresh off a win that netted the Indians an 89-81 victory over rival Valencia in the final Foothill League dual meet of the season.

PHOTOS: Hart and Valencia swim face off

The boys teams entered the meet-closing relay separated by two points. Hart’s “A” group of Ryan Brimer, Emilio Santoyo, Dawson Waage and Adam Osowski took first in three minutes, 12.68 seconds to secure eight points for the Indians (5-0 in Foothill League).

Valencia’s top foursome came in at 3:19.89, good for four points.

“We had a lot of confidence,” Santoyo said. “We were all hyped up. We were all ready for that race.”

Hart’s Ryan Brimer swims the 100-yard freestyle during a dual meet with Valencia at Santa Clarita Aquatic Center on Wednesday. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The girls meet wasn’t as dramatic. Valencia, at full strength with its club swimmers present, won 91-79.

Swimmers and coaches alike downplayed this trivia nugget after the meet, but every year since at least 2009, the winner of the Hart-Valencia dual has also won at league finals (with the exception of the boys in 2014, when Hart and Valencia tied in their dual meet).

“I really wouldn’t say winning this meet means we’ll win league,” said Santoyo, who took first in the 100 backstroke.

Osowski won the 200 and 500 free races, while Brimer doubled in the 200 individual medley and the 100 free.

Valencia, though, took first, second and third in the 100 breaststroke, led by Joshua Lee, to pull within striking distance entering the final relay.

“We were sweating it,” Neale said.

For the girls, Brooke Helgeson (500 free) and Maxine Catig (100 back) were the only individual winners for Hart (4-1), which took first, second and third in the 500 free.

Valencia (5-0) finished one-two in the 200 medley relay to open the meet. Jin Young Yi, Nikol Popov, Sonaly Wintermute and Hailey Chua won it in CIF-auto-qualifying time of 1:49.90.

The Vikings’ 200 free relay of Julia Wolf, Popov, Wintermute and Kaila Wong won in an auto CIF time of 1:38.51.

“This is our best relay so far, now that all of us girls are together: Julia, Nikol, Kaila, me,” Wintermute said. “We’re all going to be on the same relay, and I think we’re going to rock it for sure.”

Wintermute won the 200 free (1:53.97) and the 100 butterfly (57.04, CIF auto), while Wolf doubled in the 50 free (23.59, CIF auto) and the 100 free (52.28, CIF auto).

The 100 breaststroke pitted the 2014 and 2015 CIF-Southern Section Division 1 breast champion against the reigning CIF champ in the event.

Popov, who missed last season to train for the U.S. Olympic trials, bested Wong on Wednesday, finishing in a CIF automatic time of 1:03.55. Wong swam a 1:07.03.

Popov also won the 200 IM (2:06.95, CIF auto).

“Everybody was together,” said Valencia coach Kathy Rosenast, “and everybody swam well.”

Foothill League prelims are Tuesday at Santa Clarita Aquatic Center. The league title will be decided at league finals on May 4.

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