By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Saturday’s North Bay League swimming championships at SRJC’s packed Quinn Aquatics Center broke out into two groups — Maria Carrillo and everybody else.
The other seven NBL teams provided little resistance to the Pumas in the boys’ team competition, while Santa Rosa came in a relatively close second place behind Maria Carrillo in the girls’ team contest.
In the end, Maria Carrillo capped its undefeated NBL dual-meet regular season with league titles for both the boys and girls.
“I’m very happy with the day. All of our kids performed up to expectations — even better than that,” first-year Maria Carrillo coach Rick Niles said. “The kids have prom tonight (Saturday) but they really stayed focused to get this meet right; it’s a big deal.”
After eight individual swimming events, three team swimming relays and one diving event each for the boys and the girls, the final team standings told the story — all Pumas.
The boys’ final team finish order was Maria Carrillo (445), Ukiah (310), Cardinal Newman (257), Montgomery (223), Windsor (221), Santa Rosa (184), Casa Grande (144) and Rancho Cotate (111).
The girls’ final team finish was Maria Carrillo (434.5), Santa Rosa (398), Ukiah (296), Montgomery (252.5), Casa Grande (230), Windsor (155), Cardinal Newman (130) and Rancho Cotate (107).
“It was the diving score that made the difference for our girls,” Niles said. “We won the boys because we have a lot of boys on the Neptunes” (swimming club team).
The Santa Rosa girls came in second despite not having any divers and fielding a very young squad with predominantly freshmen and sophomores.
“We are inexperienced, especially in the big meets,” Santa Rosa coach Ericka Richards said. “But we are going to be good for a long time. Our depth is only going to get better.”
Not coincidentally, Maria Carrillo has by far the most year-round swimmers — at least 15 who train with the prestigious Neptunes club led by coach Dan Greaves.
“You get the top of the food chain from the Neptune swimmers and we have more people in the water than other teams,” Niles said. “I inherited a machine.”
The two undisputed superstars at the event were Maria Carrillo junior Piper Brockley and her senior teammate, Stefan Keller.
Brockley won the 100-yard freestyle by setting an all-time NBL meet record with a time of 52.60 seconds (the previous record was 53.22, set in 2004). She also won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2 minutes, 4.10 seconds.
Both times automatically qualify her for the North Coast Section championships, which start Friday at Concord’s Cowell Community Pool.
“The IM is a sprint and I love to race. It’s also fun to swim all four strokes,” Brockley said. “I’m hoping to peak next weekend at the NCS.”
“Piper should be up near the top at the NCS finals,” Cardinal Newman coach Christina Messer said.
The NCS seeding meeting Monday morning will determine which 40 swimmers quality for each event and which relay teams qualify. After the NCS championships comes the state tournament in Clovis, May 22-23.
Keller set an NBL meet record in the boys ‘100 breaststroke with a time of 59.64 (previous record 59.81, set in 2014). He also won the 200 IM with a time of 1:55.68 and automatically qualifies for that event at NCS.
Henry Steiner of Casa Grande set the NBL meet record for the boys’ 100-yard butterfly with a time of 51.94 (51.95 in 1988).
Keller beat Steiner in head-to-head competition in the 200-yard IM by a stroke, avenging his only loss of the year, to Steiner in the Maria Carrillo-Casa Grande dual meet.
“I made up some ground on the breaststroke,” Keller said. “I’m not a great first-half swimmer and I knew Steiner was going to be really fast at the start on the butterfly. It helps me go faster racing against him.”