FRESNO – Emma Davidson splashed water onto her face, jumped next to her starting block and clapped her hands. But most importantly, the Yorba Linda sophomore kept smiling before an extra test from the ultra-swift CIF State swimming championships’ preliminaries.
“At CIF, I started smiling and trying to have fun before (races) and not taking it too seriously because that doesn’t always work out,” she explained.
Davidson encountered her first swim-off Friday, a duel for the last spot in the finals of the girls 100-yard freestyle on Saturday. With her attitude set, she held off fellow sophomore Kira Crage of Torrey Pines by touching in a lifetime-best 50.56 seconds, winning a fight symbolic of the challenges Orange County’s small but speedy fleet faced all afternoon.
Most O.C. racers scrapped into finals at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex at Clovis West High.
“It’s super-fast,” said Davidson, who also earned a spot in the consolation finals of the 50 freestyle (23.59). “I’m hoping to do better (Saturday) because the last 10 meters, I couldn’t feel my arms at all.”
Orange County muscled its way to 16 spots in the championship finals which start Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Many others advanced to the consolation finals, a few taking ninth or one spot shy of the A group.
“Crazy-fast meet,” said Mater Dei senior Christian Hockenbury, who earned seventh seeds in the 50 (20.80) and 100 (45.74) freestyles. “I’m seeded seventh with a 20.8. That’s a fast meet.”
Santa Margarita’s girls, the four-time defending CIF-SS Division 1 champion, aren’t full strength and claimed only one individual spot in a championship final. Freshman Anicka Delgado qualified fourth in the 50 free (23.09).
Defending state champion Elise Garcia of Crean Lutheran qualified second in the 50 at 22.82, touching about four-tenths of a second behind Amalie Fackenthal of Country Day who blazed a meet-record 22.45.
Santa Margarita’s girls still showed their speed. In the 400 free relay, Delgado led off with a lifetime-best 49.43 and teamed with Bela Patino (lifetime-best 51.82), Allison Plamondo (53.67) and anchor Mackenie Degn (50.57) to claim the county’s lone No. 1 seed with a 3:25.49.
Patino and Plamondon filled in for Samantha Shelton and Ella Ristic – who helped Santa Margarita set a national private high school record (3:18.26) at the Division 1 finals last weekend – and the Eagles’ time Friday would have conquered Division 1 by almost 21/2 seconds.
“I’m impressed,” said Delgado, who also helped the Eagles qualify second to Clovis West in the 200 free relay (1:35.32). “It’s way more competitive (here) than our past high school meets. … We’re making it, the few of us.”
Garcia and Sunny Hills’ Courtney Tseng joined Hockenbury as the county’s other double finalists. Garcia, a junior, claimed the third seed in the 100 free (50.11), while the Princeton-bound Tseng grabbed eighth in the 200 individual medley (2:02.72)…