By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
West Ranch and Valencia capped off a great year for swim as league champs in the Foothill League finals.
Valencia’s girls won the league title with a team score of 461, beating out Hart by 13.5 points.
The Wildcat boys took home the crown with a final score of 498, just edging the Vikings with 489.
West Ranch also showed their future is bright with their junior varsity teams sweeping both JV league titles.
The Wildcat boys team had several standout swimmers but were led by Jonathan Gim and Michael Lee. The pair were the only two to win two individual races and two relays.
“My varsity boys are rock stars,” said Wildcats head coach Kearston Livingstone. “They are great athletes and they are competitive. They wanted to defend their league title. They knew it would be tough, but they rose to the occasion. They worked together, and ultimately came out on top because of their teamwork.”
Gim beat Valencia’s Thomas Hadji by a hair in the boys 200-yard freestyle. Gim won in 1 minute and 39.52 seconds, beating out Hadji by .36 seconds. Gim also had a great 49.55-second finish in the 100-yard backstroke.
Lee narrowly won the 200 individual medley in 1 minute and 53.77 seconds, just .22 seconds before Saugus’ Luke Bezanilla, who won the event at league prelims.
Senior Jason Hawkins also finished first for West Ranch in the boys 50-yard freestyle. Hawkins blazed another CIF-qualifying time of 20.72 seconds.
The senior fell just short to Bezanilla in the 100-yard breaststroke after besting the Saugus swimmer in prelims. Bezanilla won the event in 57.17 seconds.
On the girls’ side, Hart would win their fair share of events, but Valencia would still end up the victor of the day.
The Indians’ strong underclass varsity swimmers continued their dominance in the pool.
Sophomore Lily Dormans had an incredible 1 minute and 49.77 finish in the 200 freestyle.
Dormans was also the first of three Hart swimmers to finish first through third in the 500-yard freestyle. Dormans finished in 5 minutes and 1.12 seconds.
Freshman Aly Yokoyama racked up a few more qualifying times, headlined by a 56.26-second finish in the 100-yard backstroke.
Saugus’ Bella Fisco is the league champion in both the butterfly and breaststroke. Fisco finished the butterfly in 54.48 seconds and the breaststroke in 1 minute 3.51 seconds.
Valencia’s Joy Lee finished second in the 50 at a mark of 23.54 seconds. Lee finished just behind Saugus’ Riley Botton, but was one of three Vikings in the top six.
The Vikings’ depth gifted them their league title. The girls’ team didn’t have many first-place finishes but had a frequent three or more swimmers in the top eight of final heats.
“The Valencia Vikings stepped up today and did an amazing job,” said Valencia head coach Kathy Rosenast. “I couldn’t have been more proud.”
The girls’ races were as mixed and competitive as ever, showing the sport’s continuous growth in the Santa Clarita Valley.
West Ranch knew the fight it’d take to get to this point, and Livingstone had them ready all year.
“This season we set some big goals,” said Livingstone. “I told the kids at the beginning of the season that this could be our best season yet, where we take the league title in three out of the four divisions. As the season went on, the kids realized just how much of a possibility this was. When we showed up to the meet Tuesday, I told the kids it’s going to take every single person stepping up to make our dream a reality. Sure enough Tuesday we had 99 of our 109 swims make it back to finals.”
Plenty of swimmers will continue their season as they prepare for CIF preliminaries.
“Heading into CIF I am confident that my swimmers will step up to the challenge and do a great job,” said Rosenast. “They have all been training for months. The CIF times are really fast and my kids are excited to go after great times.”
Rosenast will hope to see her swimmers give their all one last time as the long-time swim coach in the SCV will retire after this season. Valencia’s coach has been at the helm for the Vikings for over 20 years and spent nearly a decade coaching at Saugus before that.
“I have watched our valley grow and its swimmers increase greatly,” said Rosenast. “We have amazing club programs in the Santa Clarita Valley and, without those programs, the kids would certainly not be as successful. I’m thankful for all coaches in the Santa Clarita Valley as I believe our athletes learn from each and every one of us. I have been fortunate to coach with some amazing individuals, each and every one of them I’ve learned from and I’m sure I’ve given a little bit back.”
Rosenast’s legacy will carry on for a long time as her son Chris Stroh is building a strong program as Hart’s swim head coach.
The qualifying swimmers will head into CIF preliminaries on Thursday with meets to be determined.