Since 2016, the Moore League girls’ swimming title has belonged to Long Beach Poly. Under head coach Kalani Caldwell, the Jackrabbits have put together the most successful run of aquatic success in the last 50 years for any program outside of Wilson High.
With a young and largely unproven roster of swimmers, will the Jackrabbits again defend their league title? Or is Wilson and superstar sophomore Sammie Hamilton ready to reclaim its first Moore League championship in seven years?
Long Beach Poly
The Jackrabbits won eight of the 11 events at last year’s league finals, and while there are a few key returners from that title-winning squad, Poly will also need to find some new contributors.
“It’s gonna be tougher,” said Caldwell about Poly’s chances of winning the league again this season. “I’ve lost my powerhouses that have been our mainstay for the last four years, and then I have two top athletes that are injured. I have six new girls to varsity–including three freshmen–so the future looks bright, and Wilson is young as well. I think it’s kind of up for grabs.”
Sophomore Sofia Brys is one of the main returners for Poly this year, and Caldwell says she’s “on fire” at this point in the season. Brys is the defending Moore League champion in the 100-yard backstroke and was a member of Poly’s medley relay as a freshman.
Another important returner is senior sprinter Michaela Sumortin, who is the league’s defending 50 free champion while also contributing to Poly’s 200 free and 200 medley relay teams a season ago.
Senior Trinity Salcedo has been a four-year standout in the pool, but is dealing with an injury and it’s unclear how much she’ll be able to contribute for Poly this season. Some other swimmers who have the chance to step up and contribute for the Jackrabbits are junior sprinter Lauren Hong, sophomore Caitlyn Kaneichi, and sophomore Anna Mor.
The Jackrabbits are prepared to face a tougher challenge this season than they have in previous years, but Caldwell has them focused on controlling what they can control in the water.
“It’s not the same as it’s been for the last six years, but the girls are wonderful,” Caldwell said. “We’ve done a lot of good team bonding, they’re very supportive of each other and they work very hard. My mantra this year is: we can only swim as fast as we can go, and we can’t really worry about the other team. If we’re swimming our best, that’s a good year.”
It takes an entire team to win a league championship, but Wilson has the luxury of starting its lineup with the reigning Moore League Swimmer of the Year in sophomore Sammie Hamilton. She was the only non-Jackrabbit to win an individual race at last year’s league finals (winning the 200 and 500 freestyle), while also anchoring Wilson’s 400 free relay team.
“She’s done exceedingly well in the freestyle events outside of the high school season,” said Wilson head coach Maggi Twinem of Hamilton. “We’ve seen improvement and strength in her, but she’s got a solid core of athletes that are very strong this year. One person cannot win a championship on their own, it takes a team effort and we have the capability of doing that.”
Junior Zoe Grover is a key returner who is also a water polo standout for the Bruins. Twinem lauded her strength and athleticism and is expecting great things from her this season. Also from the water polo team come the O’Dea sisters–junior Maya and freshman Katherine–who are expected to be great sprinters for Wilson this season. Twinem is also high on senior Leila Marr, who should be in the mix in multiple events.
But will this group of Bruins have enough to dethrone Poly?
“We have the confidence that we are mentally and physically ready to do that, and the girls are stronger,” Twinem said. “We’re confident that we have the athletes to do it. You have to believe that you’re capable of winning and the girls do–most definitely.”
Over at Millikan, head coach Jose Guzman has a good crop of young swimmers led by freshman standout Kylie Montiel. He expects her to make waves in her first high school season, and could contribute for the Rams in a number of events.
Senior Olivia Reitano returns in the 100 butterfly, an event where she finished a close second to Poly’s Trinity Salcedo last season. Another key swimmer for the Rams this year will be junior Jennine Osorio, who was a standout for Millikan water polo in the fall. She will be competing in the freestyle sprints for the Rams, going up against a slate of talented swimmers.
Lancers head coach Deb Caine is confident in this year’s group, especially given their placement in Division 4 for CIF. She’s hoping to see a number of swimmers qualify as individuals and see all the Lakewood relays through to the CIF meet.
Junior Brooke Baze will swim in the freestyle sprints and senior Danielle Sgontz is swimming the 200 and 500 free for Lakewood. The Lancers also have a few sophomores to watch in Destiny Perez and Marlene Isaacson.
Seniors Daniela Torres and Kelly Gomez have helped see the program through the struggles of the past two years of the pandemic. They’ll lead a young group of Panthers swimmers looking to develop and improve throughout the season.
CLICK HERE for our photo gallery from Jordan’s meet against Wilson
The biggest meet of the season will be the showdown between Poly and Wilson this Friday, hosted by the Jackrabbits at 3 p.m. Twinem the importance of the meet and how special the rivalry is for both schools.
“This is a big step for us,” Twinem said of the meet against Poly. “This is what every competition should be. You should go into any meet or any game with competition that brings out the best in you, and I think Poly brings out the best in us. We get up for this meet and I think they get up for us, so it’s a great experience for both teams.”
The girls’ Moore League swim finals are scheduled for Friday, April 29 at Cabrillo.