A trio of sophomores and a senior from West Ranch jumped into the water for the girls 400-yard freestyle relay at the CIF-SS Division 1 finals this past weekend, with the senior knowing that it will probably be the last time she represents her school.
“I didn’t think it was going to hit me and of all the sudden, we finished,” said senior Sophia Morici. “I’ve been swimming with some of them since I was eight years old and I’m just really happy to have had the team that I did. I’ll always remember my team.”
Departing for Utah in mid-August, Morici was a vital component in the Wildcats’ success this year. Taking on a parent or veteran role for both relay teams that she is on, Morici’s friendship with one of the sophomores, Reagan Nibarger, blossomed as the year went on.
“It’s so fun to have a friend like her that I can push at practice,” Morici said. “We push each other to succeed and then at the end of the day we can get out of the pool and just goof around.”
Swimming for the same club team, Canyon Aquatics, Morici and Nibarger have learned how to lean on each other when needed and push through things, almost with an “older sister” vibe.
With the Wildcats having such a young roster made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores, head coach Kearsten Livingstone is hoping that the torch will be passed on to Nibarger after Morici departs for the University of Utah in the fall.
“She was like a little mother to all of them. They (Nibarger and Morici) are my fastest combos, but it just happened that way. She (Morici) is a seasoned vet and Reagan is always willing to learn and compete with the best.”
Nigbarger looks like she’s ready to step into the role that Morici is vacating, and proved that this year by going undefeated in every dual meet that she took part in during the year.
“All of my sophomores are going to take on a different role next year. We have a very young team and I’m interested in her growing and taking on a more intricate role with the team,” Livingstone said.
With a couple goals already set for next year including retaining her league titles in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, making it back to CIF and moving up a couple spots in the top nine at the CIF-SS finals, Nibarger understands the dynamic that she had with Morici will be hard to copy.
“I’m definitely going to miss our relationship, just having someone to push me and having someone to race with. We were always on the same page and I’m just going to miss that because our team just meshed really well,” Nibarger said.
Making huge strides for the West Ranch program this season, Livingstone has big hopes for the team next year.
“We obviously made huge strides from where we were last year to where we are now,” said Livingstone. “I’m just excited to pick off where we left off. We shifted things up in the valley because it’s been Hart and Valencia for a while, but for now, we just want to enjoy summer and relax.”