Gregori High’s Andrew Britton is swimming at a record pace, while Central Catholic High’s Malia Fernandez is making waves at school largely known for its football and basketball.
Swimming finds the spotlight this weekend as the third annual CIF State Swim and Dive Championships get underway at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex. Trials are set for Friday and finals Saturday.
Britton will be a marked man following his performance at the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships.
The Jaguars junior edged Ty Wells of Ripon High, a Ripon Aquatics teammate and longtime friend, in the 100-yard breaststroke, touching the wall in 54.91 seconds. That time will make him the favorite in Clovis.
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Britton is ranked No. 1 in the event, a first for a Stanislaus District swimmer in the State’s short history. Now comes the hard part: Will that seed translate to gold?
Britton looks to become the district’s first state champion.
Two-time All-District Swimmer of the Year Scott Tolman of Sierra High, now a freshman at Cal Baptist, is the most decorated swimmer in district history. He medaled twice at State last spring, finishing second in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 individual medley. One day after his double medal, Tolman posted an Olympic Trials cut in the 200-meter breaststroke.
Britton, who has matched many of Tolman’s milestones, will swim the same program. He is seeded 22nd in the 200 IM with a time of 1:52.36.
Wells is seeded fourth in the 100 breaststroke (55.95) and 18th in the 100 butterfly (49.93). He has his own place in the district record books. The junior is the only swimmer to appear at all three State meets.
Fernandez is the only girl from the Stanislaus District to advance to State. She is seeded 29th in the 50 freestyle after posting a 24.03 at sections.
Regardless of what happens Friday and Saturday, Fernandez, a Tracy native, has already made history. She is the first swimmer in school history to final at sections and the first to qualify for State.
Central Catholic coach John Hoskins, however, is more impressed by her times. Fernandez shaved more than a second in the 50 free this season, a feat Hoskins says is “next to impossible” in a sprint event. She began the season with a 25.13.
“I’ve been a swim coach for 44 years and I’ve never seen such a thing,” said Hoskins, who coached Olympic gold medalist Misty Hyman. “It was very evident from the get go that that was possible. In the beginning of the season, I texted her mom (Stephanie Fernandez) the times from the 2016 to make the finals at sectionals, and I think that drove her.
“She knew what those numbers were and she just applied herself to make those numbers.”
Unlike Britton and Wells, Fernandez and Hoskins seek experience – not the podium – at State.
“The whole goal is get her that experience,” Hoskins said. “I think it will be great for her. I want her to have fun, but I will tell you this: I think she’ll win State at one point. It’s just the way she’s driven and she has four years.”