Elite high school sports programs know that the incoming freshman class is as important as the experienced seniors in order to have sustained success.
Wilson boys’ swimming is a great example of just that, and the Bruins had phenomenal performances from both under and upperclassmen alike to win their record 47th consecutive Moore League championship on Wednesday evening at Cabrillo High. The streak is the longest in California.
“It’s just the Bruin pride we try to create, and this is what we strive for,” Wilson coach Eric Berg said. “This is the target.”
Freshman Hank Rivers broke records in the 100-yard Breaststroke, the 50 Freestyle and the 200 Freestyle relay with fellow freshman Gray Carson, junior Mazen Abouelela and senior Max Berg. Their time of 1:26.69 broke a 21-year old league record set by Wilson.
“It’s a big deal, and I’m out of breath,” Rivers said after setting the meet record with a time of 56.66 in the breaststroke. “It was just a solid performance today. Keeping the streak alive [is most important] because in my senior year, if we keep it up, will be 50 and that means a lot to me and my peers. I’m at a loss for words, this is a great night.”
Rivers, Carson, Abouelela and Berg also automatically qualified for CIF Southern Section Division 2 with a time of 1:35.99 in the meet-opening 200 Medley Relay.
“Time will allow him to show exactly what he has,” Berg said of Rivers. “He’s got a lot more in him, and it’s really exciting. There’s names like Tim Shaw, Hank Wise, Jessica Hardy and Daniel McArthur more recently… looking at where he’s going right now, you can’t not mention him in that circle.”
Rivers broke Rick Westberg’s 1995 record 21.45 in the 50 Freestyle with a 21.04 that also qualifies him for CIF.
Wilson junior Ian Escoto won the 200 Medley Relay (1:59.32), and Abouelela won the 200 Freestyle (1:45.87). Carson automatically qualified for CIF in the 100 Freestyle (47.18) as did junior Brandon Samaniego in the 500 Freestyle (4:35.71).
Long Beach Poly junior Casey Lait edged Berg by .31 tenths of a second to win the 100 Butterfly (51.34) as both qualified for CIF. Lait also qualified with a 51.55 in the 100 Backstroke.
Wilson scored 580 points to secure the league crown, and Millikan finished second with 386 points. Poly (324.5), Jordan (117), Lakewood (103.50) and Cabrillo (103) rounded out the field.
“It’s indescribable,” Berg said of his final league meet. “It’s all the feels. Sadness for leaving, joy for it being my last one, pride, happiness, joy, love… It’s four years in the making.”
Berg was hugging everyone on the deck after the celebrating in the pool during which he hunted down Wilson administrators to pull into the water.
“I love every single one of these guys on this team with me,” Berg said. “We spend so much time together, all of the hard trainings where everyone is tired and hates to do it, but it’s all love at the end. I love my teammates, my family, my coaches, my school and Long Beach, of course.”
The last person Berg got to jump into the pool was his coach and father, who kissed his son on the check while they embraced amidst the splashing celebrating.
“I’m part of a really small group that has the opportunity to coach their kids at this level,” Eric Berg said. “It’s so rewarding. Over the years, starting with my son Jack, and now Max, they’ve been so cooperative and helpful in shaping the program into what I wanted it to be. I couldn’t have done it without them. Obviously, I’ve had to grind on them, and lean on them and make them examples. Things I couldn’t do to other kids.”
“Coach sucks, but Dad is a homie,” Max Berg joked. “It’s the most special experience I’ve ever had. I love my coach, and I love my dad.”
Max Berg also said that he wanted to dedicate the league win to the late Latham Bell, a Wilson aquatics coach who passed away in 2017.
“He brought me up, he’s the best coach ever and may he Rest In Peace,” he said of Bell.
The CIF meet is April 29-May 4.
“We’ve got more records to break,” Max Berg said. “We have unfinished business at CIF.”
The Moore League girls’ finals are also at Cabrillo on Thursday at 5 p.m.