There was a lot of excitement surrounding Thursday’s Foothill League swim finals. Not only because it was the last league meet for the graduating seniors, but also because of the impending retirement of Hart’s swim coach Steve Neale.
After all the swimmers were out of the water and the final scores were tallied, Valencia varsity girls and boys teams swept the meet winning with scores of 399 and 344, respectively. Both Hart teams settled for second as the girls scored 387 points and the boys 287.
“I can’t be prouder of my kids,” said Valencia head coach Kathryn Rosenast. “Everybody did a best time. Everybody stepped up. Everybody did what they needed to do. They got it done and I’m really proud of them.”
Girls teams from Saugus (198), West Ranch (172), Canyon (37) and Golden Valley (30) completed the girl’s standings.
The boys team from West Ranch (285) took third, followed by Saugus (136), Canyon (120) and Golden Valley (25) to round out the boy’s finishes.
With today’s scores, Valencia’s girls team and the Hart boys team were crowned the Foothill League season champs.
Right out of the gates, two Foothill League records were broken in the two varsity races. Valencia’s girls 200-yard medley relay team of Jin Young Yi, Julia Unas, Izabella Adame, Allison Cho set the tone finishing in one minute and 43.22 seconds, beating the previous record of 1:44.66 in 2017.
The Hart boys 200-yard medley relay team made up of Ryan Sevidal, Kyle Brill, Jonathan Quick and Dawson Waage also broke the league record with a time of 1:34.33, taking down the previous record set by Valencia in 2015 by .48 seconds.
The repeat girls Foothill League swimmer of the year, Valencia sophomore Adame, dedicated every race in memory of her grandfather, who passed away in February. She walked away as the back-to-back defending champion in the 200-yard individual medley (2:02.08) dropping more than two seconds off last years finish and set a new league record in the girls 100-yard butterfly (53.85) new meet record.
“Izabella is a real asset to our program, not only as an athlete, but as a leader,” Rosenast said. “She is a great role model for all our of athletes and if she improves so does everyone else because they want to be just like her.”
Fellow Vikings sophomore Julia Unas was the other Valencia girls swimmer to take home an individual honor, winning the girls 100-yard breaststroke in 1:03.79.
Hart sophomore Ellie Horst overcame an early deficit in the girls 200-yard freestyle to defend her title with a time of 1:51.91. She was also the top finisher in the girls 500-yard freestyle 4:58.71.
“I was really doing it for my team,” Horst said. “I was just thinking about doing it for my teammates and I have to do it for Neale. I have to be the best in the valley so I could show that Hart is the best because I’m a representation of Hart. It really feels great to be able to represent my team like that.”
Maxine Catig was the other Indians girls swimmer to take home individual first-place honors defending her title in the girls 100-yard backstroke (54.90).
West Ranch’s Reagan Nibarger was the final girls swimmer to earn two first-place finishes in the girls 50-yard freestyle (23.77) and girls 100-yard freestyle (51.04).
“Two years, it’s kind of weird,” Nibarger said. “Sophomore year was weird because I was the youngest, but now it’s a good feeling. Being around the other girls and knowing that I’m still swimming with my best friends is a good feeling.”
West Ranch, Saugus and Canyon had two boys swimmers take home Foothill League titles as Ted Hwang, Justin Morsch and the back-to-back Foothill League boys swimmer of the year Kevin Childs all defended their title in their respective races.
Hwang won boys 200-yard individual medley (1:51.56) with teammate Cade Brower (1:53.33) overcoming Hart’s Sevidal in the final 25 yards for a one-two finish.
“I always do this on the freestyle,” Brower said. “It’s where I come in clutch. I knew Ted was going to take it, it’s always been his race. Just to get second is awesome. I’m so hyped for our team, I don’t care about my time. That was for the team.”
Hwang also defended his boys 100-yard breaststroke title finishing in 56.72.
Morsch repeated as the boys 200-yard freestyle (1:38.72) and the boys 100-yard freestyle (44.86) champ.
Boys Foothill League swimmer of the year Childs, set two league records with a time of 48.30 in boys 100-yard butterfly and crushed the previous record set by Cole Cogswell (49.50) in 2015 with a time of 47.92.
“I went into this meet wanting to get those records,” Childs said. “I got that goal. Got it for my team and I’m really happy about that.”
Senior Hart boys swimmers Waage and Quick split the last two boys freestyle race with winning the boys 50-yard freestyle Waage (20.80) and Quick the 500-yard freestyle (4:29.92).
“My mindset going in was just to go out as fast as I could, but not destroy my body,” Quick said. “If you do that, you just die. I was trying to go as fast as I could while staying relaced for the first 200 and then once I hit lap 11 I knew I could give it my all.”
Valencia’s boys and girls swept the 200-yard freestyle relay as Adame, Unas, Emma Hiett and Cho clocked a 1:36.39 and the boys swimmers: Dylan Parente, Ronit Shresta, Woo Young Yi and Jacob Gibbs finished in 1:25.69.
“I’m kind of sad, but I’m so excited that we got to finish strong,” Valencia senior Cho said of her last Foothill League meet. “I’m really happy that I got to be a part of that so I’m kind of sad, but I’m really excited to have a strong finish.”
“This whole entire four years everyone has been so supportive of all of our coaches and I just really like seeing everyone go fast,” Valencia senior Parente said. “No matter who wins or who loses it’s always really fun. We never quit. To be a Viking you have to be strong, aggressive and never quit.”
Hart answered by sweeping the 400-yard freestyle relays with Catig, Alyssa Hamilton, Horst and Hope Hill setting a new meet record with a time of 3:30.75.
Sevidal, Jacob Gragas, Quick and Waage recorded 3:05.34 in the final race of the day to push the boys team two points ahead of third-place finisher West Ranch.
At the end of the meet, there was a special tribute for Neale by Rosenast thanking him for all that he has done to grow the sport over his 35-year tenure at Hart, highlighting his achievements and sending him off the proper with goodbye.
“To tell you the truth, it gives validity to my life,” Neale said. “It gives a lot of meaning to what I’ve done for three and a half decades and I’m thankful. I’m not sure a lot of people can say that after a long career. I’m very fortunate in a lot of different levels, not only the immediate affection but what it’s meant to other people and I know it’s a very special place to be, to be appreciated like that. I don’t take it for granted and take it to hear and I really thank everybody for putting up with me.”