Between them, Jeff Thomason and John Nichols have won all but one race in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle all season.
Thomason beat Nichols in the 100. By a touch.
Chances are, Nichols will get a second chance in the Southern Section 4-A swimming finals this weekend at the Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach. They may not meet in the 4-A preliminaries today, but if not, they are likely to meet in the finals Friday night.
They also are likely to meet in the 50 freestyle.
Southern Section 3-A preliminaries are also today at Belmont Plaza. The 2-A preliminaries are Friday, and both 3-A and 2-A finals are Saturday.
Thomason, of Corona del Mar, and Nichols, of Newport Harbor, are Sea View League rivals. Both are juniors, and their times in the 50 and the 100 are among the fastest in Orange County this season. Darren Ward of Sonora has the fastest 4-A times (21.2 seconds in the 50, 46.2 in the 100).
Phil Clinton of Savanna, which is in division 3-A, has swum the fastest 50 in the county--21.0.
Mike Starkweather, Corona del Mar coach, expects the rematch to be key.
Starkweather said Nichols and Thomason could go 1-2 in the 50. "In the 100, they should both be in the top six."
Nichols and Thomason didn't swim against each other in the Corona del Mar-Newport Harbor dual meet this season. Thomason swam the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly, while Nichols swam the 50 and 100 freestyle. Each won two races, but Newport Harbor won the meet when Nichols came from behind on the anchor leg in the 4x100 freestyle relay to give Newport Harbor the victory.
In the Sea View League finals, which Corona del Mar won, they met only in the 100. Thomason touched the wall at 47.4. Nichols was two-tenths of a second behind.
"He just out-touched me," Nichols said.
Nichols was disappointed then, but his disappointment increased later in the meet when he swam a leg in the 4x100 relay in 46.8.
"I thought when we raced that if I pushed myself I could beat him," Nichols said. "But after our relay I knew I could have beat him. We have another chance."
Nichols won't make a prediction on either race, though.
"We should both go in the top three or four," he said.
Thomason said the 100 should be close. Nichols has swum it in 47.0; Thomason's best is two-tenths of a second behind.
"But I think I should do better in the 50," Thomason said. His best time in the 50 is 21.4. Nichols' is 21.9.
Nichols and Thomason are anomalies among the best swimmers. Neither trains year-round. Nichols focuses instead on water polo. Thomason is a starting tight end on the Corona del Mar football team.
"They're not tied down to swimming all year," Starkweather said.