April 28, 2017, 05:00 AM By Terry Bernal Daily Journal
It was apparent as the Half Moon Bay girls closed out a 107-61 win over rival Terra Nova in Thursday’s regular-season swimming finale why the Lady Cougars are the class of the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division.
With the rivals entering Thursday tied for the top spot in the Ocean Division, HMB’s freshman four showed up with an inspired performance to clinch the crown. And even with the meet locked up heading into the day’s final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Cougars’ quartet did not back down.
Grace Anderson, Riley Rhodes, Eve Kearns and Mia Griffiths have been paving the way for a renaissance in Half Moon Bay girls’ swimming all season. After each topped the podium in multiple events, they teamed to win the 400 free relay in 3 minutes, 58.45 seconds, 20 seconds better than the second-place finisher.
The lithe and limber Anderson used her tall frame to lead off with an inspired swim, taking a body-length lead by the end of her first lap and gaining even more by the end of the second. Then Rhodes entered the water with a swam-like dive, touching the wall at the end of the second leg with a 30-yard lead. The business-like Kearns followed by hammering away, lapping another swimmer to finish the third leg nearly 50 yards ahead, a full length of the pool, over the second-place lane. And Griffiths anchored by chasing down another third-leg swimmer and finishing over 50 yards ahead of second place.
If the freshmen were ever intimidated by swimming against varsity competition that is consistently two or three years older than them, they aren’t now. But it’s clear from their ability to start tabbing Central Coast Section qualifying times from the outset of the year that they never were intimidated.
“It’s always kind of weird,” Griffiths said. “I’m never really thinking these girls are two or three years older. … I’m accustomed to racing against the clock.”
Still, what the four freshmen are doing in terms of the history of Half Moon Bay is entirely unique.
“It is extremely unique,” HMB coach Justin Ferdinand said. “Obviously it’s testament to the time and effort all of them endures. It’s a lot of time they’re putting in in the pool.”
While each entered into Thursday’s meet having qualified for CCS in some capacity, Anderson still got the chance to celebrate clinching a CCS spot in the 50 freestyle. She topped the field with a time of 25.27 seconds.
Anderson said she knew entering the season the Cougars had a promising team. As was clear as she joyously splashed around, pumping a fist after touching the wall in the 50 free, the surprise never grows old in the Cougars ranks.
“Definitely always surprised,” Anderson said. “I know we had the talent. But getting in (to CCS) was really a great feeling.”
The quartet also led off the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay, totaling three wins for Anderson. Rhodes also earned three wins, rounding out her day with a victory in her specialty event, the 100 backstroke, with a time of 1:03.18.
Griffiths earned four wins, including in the 200 free in 2:05.99, and in a thrilling 500 free race by overtaking two swimmers in the last two laps for a time of 5:30.03. And Kearns also clocked four wins, taking first in the 200 individual medley in 2:21.26, and in the 100 butterfly with a bang-bang finish as her time of 1:04.73 won it by .09 seconds.
Three of the freshmen have been swimming for the HMB Mavericks swim club since middle school with Rhodes joining at the outset of this season.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to excel and help my team,” Rhodes said. “It was a good opportunity to bond together and just swim.”
Now, they all spend three hours a day in the pool between varsity and club practice. But as each is quick to point out, the Cougars varsity squad is sitting pretty atop the PAL Ocean Division because of the depth of the team.
“I think our team did pretty good,” Kearns said. “A lot of people had some good races.”
This was evident in the 500 free. Although Griffiths won the race, it was the depth of the field with Rhodes taking second and junior Carly Hilvert taking third.
“That sealed the meet,” Ferdinand said of Hilvert’s third-place finish. “Those are huge points for us.”
HMB boys lock up second place
Entering into the day in a three-way tie for second place with Terra Nova and Capuchino in the PAL Ocean Division, the Half Moon Bay boys’ swimming team earned a close 87-81 win — coupled with first-place Mills’ win over Cap — to claim second place outright.
Sophomore Nate Feix proved a jet-setter in returning to the Bay Area to claim two wins. Over the weekend, Feix was in Oceanside competing with the Half Moon Bay club surfing team in the state championships at Oceanside Harbor Beach. His three-man team — including Nick Wiley of Lincoln High School-SF and Clay Johnson of Mount Shasta High School — advanced past Saturday’s first round before getting knocked off by powerhouse San Clemente.
That didn’t prevent Feix from competing in four events Thursday, taking first in the 100 fly in a convincing win in 59.99 seconds. He also teamed for a victory in the 200 medley relay with North Cossman, Tomas Castro and Tanner Islander.
“When I got in the pool, I was feeling sore, but I went a little faster,” Feix said. “I guess I felt better than I thought I did.”
An all-around water baby, Feix also competes with the HMB boys’ water polo team. He was the varsity Cougars’ top sophomore this season, playing as one of the first subs off the bench and earning the team’s Most Improved Player award.