The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of water polo & swimming is sponsored by the Aquatic Capital of America Foundation.
The tides have changed again in Moore League girls’ swimming.
After Long Beach Poly grabbed the league’s top spot from Wilson and won five consecutive league titles, the Bruins bounced back and put on the league crown once again last season.
“We have worked so endlessly hard this entire year and the last few years to try and get this back,” Wilson’s Sammie Hamilton said last year. “I think this is where it belongs and it will be here for a while.”
If early results are any indication, it looks like Wilson is the team to beat yet again.
The Bruins have been victims of their own success in terms of getting this season started because a handful of their best swimmers were part of the extended girls’ water polo season. That meant they were late getting back between the lanes and defending their Moore League title.
“I think we only had about 40 of our 60 swimmers available for our first meet of this season,” Wilson coach Maggi Twinem said. “We had to wait and it’s going to be a quick turnaround for (the water polo girls) but I’m still expecting to go for the league championship again and get more swimmers qualified for CIF in Division 1.”
Leading the way will be junior Sammie Hamilton, who was absolutely dominant in her 200 and 500 freestyle wins at league finals last year. She also got great offseason experience in Israel competing in the Maccabiah Games for Team USA where she won eight medals.
Wilson has a bunch of strong freestyle swimmers alongside Hamilton including Maya O’Dea, Katherine O’Dea, Zoe Grover and Vanessa Newton. Maya O’Dea won the 50 freestyle at league finals last year with a time of 24.99, and Grover won the 100 freestyle with a time of 53.96.
The Bruins freestyle relay teams will also be hard for any other teams to deal with. Hamilton, Grover and the O’Dea sisters are the defending 200 and 400 relay champions in league.
“I think they’re stronger as upperclassmen after being in the program for two or three years,” said Twinem, who puts a premium on off-season strength and conditions outside of the pool. “It’s core training and gym work that works in areas other than cardio endurance.”
Wilson also has another talented freelancer added to the mix this year with the arrival of freshman Taylor Williams, but Twinem is being cautious when it comes to predictions.
“I just don’t go there because you never know what can happen during a season,” she said. “I think (the league) is going to be very competitive. There’s good athletes at all of the high schools and we’re looking forward to competing against all of them.”
LONG BEACH POLY
A year after going toe-to-toe with a stacked Wilson team, the Jackrabbits are taking a different approach this year.
“My team’s expectation this season is to swim for themselves… to not worry about other teams and to push each other to be better,” Poly coach Kalani Caldwell said. “They have set goals and are working hard to have a successful season.”
Lauryn Hong and Elizabeth Jung, who both swim the sprint freestyle and breaststroke races, will be relied on as the team captains this year. They will be joined by key returners Sofia Brys and Belle Puckett, Maya Guevara and Caitlyn Kaneichi.
Brys and Puckett are the most likely to challenge for CIF spots in the difficult Division 1 ranks, while Hong and Guevara will be strong contenders on the relays.
Caldwell is also excited to see what freshman Kayla Nguyen can do at the Varsity level. She’s also made a place for two-sport athletes Fiona Lobedecis (diving) and Camille Lindsay (cross country) to explore their athleticism.
The Rams are hoping to ride the momentum off a historic girls’ water polo season to make some noise in the Moore League, and they’ll be doing it with first-year coach Scarled Murillo at the helm.
“My expectations for this season is to encourage and drive their passion in swimming,” Murillo said. “I hope to see faster times, and happy faces in all my participants.”
Freestyle sprinters Avery Reyes and Jennine Osorio will be the team captains, and they were both on that CIF runner-up water polo team.
The other experienced returners will be junior Devon Fletcher in the breaststroke, sophomore Kylie Montiel in the backstroke and Simone Mack in the butterfly. Murillo hopes they can break a school record in the 200 IM relay.
Murillo is also excited to see freshman Grace Darby join the team and try to break into the Varsity squad in the 100 freestyle and 50 breaststroke.
The Lancers found a home in CIF Division 4 last season and finished eight overall at the Southern Section competition. The success has moved Lakewood up to Division 3 this season, so coach Deb Caine hopes her team can continue to improve.
“My expectations for the team are to just compete and each day, go into a race knowing that they personally are going to try to get better times and work hard,” Caine said.
Brooke Baze, Meilani Kerr and Lauren Baker will be the Lancers team captains this season. Baze focuses on the freestyle sprints, Kerr is a backstroker who will be a key component on the freestyle relay teams and Baker is tops in the IM who will also be in the relay teams.
Caine thinks Baze, Baker and the freestyle relays have a good shot to post CIF qualifying times.
Junior Leilani Sanchez will be a key newcomer trying to break through in the 100 backstroke and freestyle relays.
The Jaguars are rebuilding this season after getting closer to qualifying for CIF last year.
“We have a lot of fresh new faces this season with nine freshmen on our team of twelve,” coach Hailey Pedersen said. “This season I am expecting a lot more records to be broken for our aquatics program.”
Pedersen is expecting big things from returners Malena Maestas, Anaisa Maestas and Vivian Alderete. Malena will be swimming the 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke. Anaisa will be swimming the 200 IM and 100 butterfly. Vivian is also in the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke.
The most exciting newcomers are Flor Garibay and Valerie Salas. Garibay will be in the backstroke and butterfly races while Salas concentrates on the freestyle races.
“Every year, our most important swim meet is against our rivals Jordan,” Pedersen said. “Both being in Division 6 and in the Moore League teams, the pressure is always on and brings excitement on deck.”
Panthers coach Manny Buenaventura is in his first year and is concentrating on making sure his team takes every chance to swim seriously.
“We view each swim meet with an equal level of importance,” Buenaventura said. “Every opportunity to learn, grow and improve is always going to be a win for us despite the final results.”
Returning seniors Yareli Alfaro, Angelika Baliling and Jasmin Magadan-Gonzalez will be the leaders after coming back from the water polo team.