MISSION VIEJO — Senior Stephanie Samudro is the only top individual contributor returning from last year's Corona del Mar High girls' swim team, which finished a strong second place at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 finals.
Graduation hit the Sea Kings hard. Brynne Wong is now swimming at Texas, as is Ally McCormick at BYU. As for the Greek twins, Stephania and Ioanna Haralabidis, they are currently trying to help the USC women's water polo team win its second straight NCAA Division 1 title.
For last weekend's Capistrano Valley relays and this weekend's Millikan CIF Southern Section relays, CdM's swimmers haven't quite had to wear name tags. But close enough.
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Coach Doug Volding still liked what he saw Saturday night, after CdM put together a sixth-place finish at the Millikan relays for the second straight year at Capistrano Valley High.
Newport Harbor's girls finished 10th in varsity and a strong fourth in frosh-soph competition. Santa Margarita defended its Millikan relays title, while University was second.
Reinforcements have arrived for the Sea Kings. Junior Meagan Popp, who moved to Newport Beach last June from Chicago, is a fast club swimmer for Irvine Novaquatics. And freshman Nicole Lin, the younger sister of CdM boys' swimmer Tyler Lin, also can fly.
"It was a good learning experience for me to see these girls," Volding said. "I've just gotten to know them over the last two weeks. We've got some real promising new freshmen coming up. I'm, overall, very pleased with their times. I think we're going to have a successful season. I think we're going to rattle a few cages before this is over."
CdM did not win the championship finals of any of the seven relay events, but did have some fast swims. The Sea Kings came in third place in the meet-opening 4x100-yard individual medley relay. Samudro, Lin, Maddie Musselman and Popp touched in 4:02.68, an improvement of nearly three seconds from the preliminaries. JSerra set the meet record in 3:53.26.
CdM also finished third in the 4x50 breast, a bit of a disappointment as the Sea Kings were seeded first after prelims and led halfway through the finals race. But Samudro, Lin, Heidi Ritner and Popp still finished in 2:05.70, dropping nearly two seconds.
"We wanted to place higher, but overall our times got faster," said Samudro, who swims club for Golden West. "We were pretty happy with everything."
Newport Harbor earned its best varsity finish in the 6x50 freestyle relay, which featured one club swimmer — senior Marissa Robertson leading off — and five water polo players. Robertson and Carlee Kapana, Kate Yasko, Cleo Harrington, Kate Pipkin and Heidi Fults finished fourth in 2:32.74.
The Sailors also were strong in the 4x50 breaststroke and 4x50 butterfly, as the same quartet took fifth place each time. Robertson, Kapana, Yasko and Morganne Goodson touched in 2:11.66 in the breast and 1:51.51 in the fly, respectively.
"It's definitely fun," said Robertson, who swims club for the YOC Sea Lions and is bound for Cal Poly SLO. "I definitely look forward to this [meet] every year. They have the different relays ... it's a different challenge. It's a good way, I feel like, to scout the competition for CIF."
Robertson, a four-year varsity swimmer, is expecting a big senior year. She said she wants to break the school records in the 50 and 100 free, as well as lower her own record in the 200 free relay. Robertson, Kapana and graduates Carly Christian and Allyson Hall set the mark at 1:38.20 last year at Sunset League finals.
"She's pretty motivated, this year in particular," Newport Coach Brian Melstrom said of Robertson. "She's the one who's like, 'All right, this is what I'm going to go do right now.' In the past, it's always been me [saying] 'Hey, what are you going to do for me today?' ... She is very motivated. She's doing a better job in training this year, with me. She's really struggled [in the past] to complete the sets that I wanted her to do, and this year she's pushing a little bit harder. I think it'll pay off."
Among other relays that advanced to the championship finals, CdM placed sixth in the 4x50 medley relay. Popp, Lin, Samudro and Musselman finished in 1:51.45.
CdM was seventh in the 4x100 free, as Musselman, Sami Pratt, Eliza Britt and Grace Morgan finished in 3:45.74. And the Sea Kings were eighth in the 6x50 free. Morgan, Britt, Sarah Lawson, Marina Coskinas, Shannon Frome and Pratt touched in 2:37.40.
Both Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar open league action next week. The Sailors are at Huntington Beach on Tuesday, and CdM is home against Irvine on Wednesday.