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Long Beach Girls’ Swimming Preview: Poly Trying To Make History

The Long Beach Poly girls’ swim team is trying to make history this year as they try to win a fourth consecutive Moore League championship. If they succeed, they’d be the first school other than Wilson to four-peat in the Moore League. Longtime coach Kalani Caldwell said there’s advantages and disadvantages to being the hunted, and not the hunter.

“It’s actually kind of scary because I don’t want them to rest on their laurels and assume that it’s going to happen,” she said. “But they do come in with more confidence now, it’s not the big scary thing that it used to be which is good and bad.”

Caldwell knows a lot about what it takes to succeed in the league–the last non-Wilson team to three-peat was Lakewood in 1983-85, teams that Caldwell was an assistant coach for.

Still, while Poly is the three-time defending champion and the presumptive preseason favorite for this year’s Moore League crown, there are still significant hurdles to overcome.

First, Poly lost 15 seniors from last year’s squad, including Anja Oca, one of the best swimmers to ever come out of Poly. Second, there’s the renewed competitiveness from their rival across town.

“You know Wilson doesn’t want it to happen, so we’re going in with the mentality of ‘This is going to be harder than the last three,’” said Caldwell. “Not because our talent is down but because we’ve made ourselves more of a target.”

The Jackrabbits will be led by the league’s top all-around swimmer, Josie Liebzeit, who could win any of four events at league finals, with the 200 and 500 free as well as the 200 IM and the 100 back. Victoria Quach is having a breakout year, and sprinter Emily Lester has signed with Hawaii. Throw in Kate Cassiano and Poly’s medley relay is hoping to get back to state this year.

Wilson

Longtime Wilson coach Maggi Twinem has a talented, young group that has her excited for the upcoming season.

“We’re looking to continue the tradition of striving for the Moore League title and to compete at our highest level possible,” said Twinem. Juniors Delainey Whelan, Lilly Simmons, and Peyton Carranza are the core of the Bruins’ returning group. Just like the boys’ team, the Wilson girls have an up-and-coming freshman that’s sure to make headlines the next four years in Leila Marr.

Lakewood

The Lancers have one of the best swimmers in the league in Maelynn Lawrence, a distance swimmer who wants Moore League titles again in both 200 and 500 free events. Lawrence’s ceiling is high for this year, and she’s shooting to make State as an individual.

“We have four seniors who’ve been four-year varsity swimmers, so it will be exciting to watch their final year,” said Lancers coach Deborah Caine.

In addition to Lawrence, Courtney Khong, Megan Regalado, and Isabella D’Aloisio will lead the way for the Lancers.

Youngsters Marissa Regalado and Abigail Nellermoe are looking like the future of the program.

Cabrillo

Cabrillo coach Emily View has been a big part of the turnaround for the Jaguars’ aquatics program, and she’s happy to report that the Jaguars girls’ team is making strides. This year Cabrillo has 24 girls on the team, the largest squad they’ve ever fielded, and they’re also running a full frosh/soph, JV, and varsity set of teams.

“We’re also a young team, with close to half of our girls being freshmen, which makes us excited for the future of the program,” said View.

Among Cabrillo’s top swimmers will be freshman Alondra Nunez and sophomore Alex Pasten.

Jordan

Jordan coach Kelsey Schafer has been hard at work with her team this year.

“We’re a young team looking to develop our swimming abilities and speed,” said Schafer/

Standouts for Jordan so far include Juliana Caldera, Genesis Mata, Wendy Garcia, Samantha Alvarado and Ayodele Onasegun.

“They’ve been working hard, they’ll be the leaders on the team this year,” said Schafer.

Millikan

Millikan’s young team is built around a strong sophomore class. The Rams standouts include Grace Arnsparger, Isabella MacLean-Cariello, Olivia Reitano, and Evelyn Giron.

“We are working hard at developing their technique and speed to build a stronger and deeper team,” said Millikan coach Hayley Berryhill.

The Moore League girls’ swimming finals will be at Cabrillo High on April 18 at 5 p.m.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.
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