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Santa Margarita boys and girls will be challenged at the CIF state swim meet this weekend – Orange County Register

Santa Margarita High School’s Nathan Wu prepares to replace his teammate during the boys’ 400-yard freestyle relay for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 swimming championships Saturday, May 4, 2024 at Center aquatics at Mt. San Antonio College. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

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Santa Margarita will be challenged this weekend at the CIF Swimming and Diving State Championships in Fresno as the Eagles look to defend their boys and girls team titles.

The Santa Margarita girls will compete without their top swimmer, Teagan O’Dell. The Santa Margarita boys should face tougher rounds against Loyola and Northwood.

The three-day competition at Clovis West High begins Thursday with boys and girls diving. The swimming preliminaries will take place on Friday afternoon and the finals on Saturday from 10:30 a.m.

The Santa Margarita girls, the four-time defending state champion, will be without O’Dell, a record-setting junior who is not competing in the state competition so she can focus on the Olympic trials next month at Indianapolis.

Based on his strong performance at last week’s CIF-SS Division 1 finals, O’Dell was a top seed in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 fly and a major contributor in the relays.

The Eagles will use their depth this weekend, especially in the freestyle events.

Santa Margarita has four swimmers ranked in the top 16 in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

In the 50 freestyle, the field includes juniors Gracyn Aquino (seeded second), Chloe Stinson (fourth) and Audrey Lee (eighth) and senior Ariel Lee (ninth).

In the 100 freestyle, the Eagles’ top-seeded swimmers are Aquino (fourth), junior Victoria Mori (ninth), Lee (13th) and Lin (15th).

Santa Margarita’s strength in the freestyle events also bodes well for the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. In O’Dell’s absence, the Eagles will need a new backstroker for the 200 medley relay and a new member for the 400 freestyle relay.

The Santa Margarita boys, who won their first state title last season, appear complete. Last season’s runner-up Loyola and 2018 state champion Northwood are expected to challenge the Eagles.

Northwood and Santa Margarita could once again battle for the county record in the 400 freestyle relay. In the CIF-SS Division 1 final, both teams ran under the standard, with the Timberwolves winning in a county record 2:59.15.

Northwood's Andrew Maksymowski cheers as he takes first place in the men's 200-yard freestyle for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 swimming championships Saturday, May 4, 2024 at the Mt. San Antonio College Aquatic Center.  (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)
Northwood’s Andrew Maksymowski cheers as he takes first place in the men’s 200-yard freestyle for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 swimming championships Saturday, May 4, 2024 at the Mt. San Antonio College Aquatic Center. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

Northwood sophomore Andrew Maksymowski faces two intriguing competitors in his individual events.

In the 200 freestyle, he could face Arizona State commit and top seed Quin Seider of Nordhoff. In the 500, he could go head-to-head with Foothill of Pleasanton star freshman and No. 1 seed Luka Mijatovic.

Orange County has two top swimmers. Santa Margarita senior Daniel Verdolaga has the fastest entry time in the boys 200 individual medley (1:46.07), and Liberty Christian freshman Bianca Nwaizu holds the distinction for the girls (1:01.03).

In diving, Mater Dei sophomore Gianna Kenrick and San Clemente senior Nolan Rooker are the top seeds in the girls and boys competition, respectively.