Clovis News: Sports

Swimmer chases section history

Loreen Whitfield put her name in the record books last year with one of the best performances ever by a Central Section freshman swimmer.

The goal this year for the Clovis East High standout is to rewrite her mark in the 100 butterfly while eclipsing the record in the 200 individual medley.

"Hopefully, she will surprise me like last year," Timberwolves coach Brian Sharar said. "We're looking to go faster. Her sights are set on being under the records."

And Whitfield won't be the only person chasing history this weekend during the section swimming and diving championships at Granite Hills High in Porterville.

Six of the 11 girls records could realistically fall during Saturday's finals, which begin at 10:30 a.m. Swimming preliminaries start at 1 p.m. Friday. The diving finals begin at 9:30 a.m. today.

This weekend's record hunters include:

Clovis West's Tristin Baxter in the 200 free and 500 free.

Clovis West's Mariah Tharp in the 50 free.

Clovis West's 200 free and 400 free relay teams.

All but Baxter in the 200 free swam All-America or All-America-consideration times in these events last season, and now the bar is being raised.

"It's more than, 'Hey, I can make All-American,' " Clovis West coach Steve Baxter said. "It's, 'Hey, I can be the fastest swimmer in the history of Central California.' That gives extra motivation."

Whitfield went 56.06 seconds in the 100 fly a year ago to top the mark of 56.09 set by Monache's Kristie Begin in 1999. Whitfield's top qualifying mark this year is a 56.19, and she'll be pushed by Stockdale's Sara Ramos (58.91).

But in the 200 IM, Whitfield is in a class by herself with her 2:07.59 nearly 8 seconds faster than the second-fastest qualifier. That could make running down the 2:05.01 mark set by Clovis West's Shellene Catalano in 2002 difficult. Whitfield won this event in 2:05.70 last season when she was pushed by defending 200 IM champion Megan Eppler.

"Look at Whitfield in the 200 IM," Baxter said. "She has an 8-second advantage. She's going to be four body lengths ahead of everyone while trying to break a [section] record, and it's a hard thing to do."

Baxter's daughter, Tristin, faces the same challenge.

While Tristin Baxter is only 3 seconds faster than the second seed in the 200 free, she's a whopping 24 seconds better than anyone in the 500 free field. Baxter enters with season-best times of 1:50.38 in the 200 free and 4:49.35 in the 500 free. The section records are 1:49.45 and 4:53.32 set by Clovis West's Kristen Hastrup in 2003.

"They are not necessarily racing head to head with the person next to them," Sharar said of dominant performers such as Whitfield and Baxter. "If we don't train our kids to swim their own race, we won't get the performance that we've seen."

Tharp, with a top time of 24.15, is within striking distance of Begin's 23.55 set in 1998. And she'll be pushed by Frontier's Stevie Hughey, who enters with a section-leading time of 24.11.

Clovis West's 200 free relay team got close to the record of 1:38.22 last year with a 1:38.87, and the team is back virtually intact this year with Morgan Barrows joining holdovers Baxter, Tharp and MacKenzie Schuler.

The Golden Eagles' 400 free team last season was 3 seconds off the record of 3:30.98 with Baxter, Tharp and Schuler back and joined by Claire Martin.

These two teams are not only trying to become the fastest in section history, but also among the fastest in the state this season.

"If all four girls perform to their highest level possible, I haven't seen a team in California that can compete with their times," Steve Baxter said. "They want to go beyond winning CIF, which will give them another type of goal to get them going as fast as they can."

On the boys side, Clovis' Chris Dominguez (200 free, 100 free) and Clovis West's Omar Dwidar (200 IM, 100 breast) are favorites to win two individual events, with Dominguez also the anchor of the favored 200 free and 400 free relay teams.

Other favorites include Clovis West's Cary Wright in the 500 free, Dinuba's Justin Lopez-Lamb in the 100 back and Golden West's Ethan Holtman in the 50 free.

In diving, Clovis East's duo of Meaghan O'Meara and Jacob Ruiz enter as the top seeds and threats to post All-America scores.