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Sophomores Hope to Lift Hart to High-Water Mark


NEWHALL — Monica Oleksyn and Becky Skyler both admit their nerves are a little frayed this week.

Although they will be making their second trip to the Southern Section Division II swimming championships Saturday night at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach, both feel the pressure from teammates and coaches after what transpired last year.

As a freshman, Oleksyn had the third-fastest time in the preliminaries of the 100-yard backstroke but came from nowhere in the final to set a Division II record of 1:05.72--a career best by an astonishing 1.81 seconds.

Skyler, also a freshman, finished second in the 100 butterfly and fourth in the 50 freestyle, helping the Indians to a sixth-place finish.

"I know they're feeling a lot of pressure but both always rise above the pressure and they don't get intimidated," Hart Coach Steve Neale said. "I've talked to them to try and remind them what they need to do."

Hart has won 13 consecutive league titles but that hasn't always translated to success in the Section finals. Last season's finish was the best in school history.

But junior Erin Walsh and senior Amy Sexton have made dramatic improvements this season. Alena Henrich, Erin Eriksson and Lauren Prelle provide depth in all three relays.

"They ask what to expect and how to deal with pressure," Oleksyn said. "I try to tell them not to worry and just relax. I just wish I could follow my own advice."

Oleksyn will try to reclaim her pressure-free environment from last year when was simply satisfied with her preliminary result, which qualified her for the U.S. Junior National Championships for the first time.

Skyler is concentrating on winning a final. Judy Thomas of Walnut, who defeated Skyler in the 100 butterfly last year, moved to Division I.

"I think everything will be all right once we swim that first medley relay," Skyler said. "All the butterflies will go away."

The Division II finals are the last of the three divisions to be contested this weekend. Crescenta Valley senior Jeff Robb and sophomore Steve Kim will try to reclaim the boys' title the Falcons won in 1993.

Buena, defending girls Division I champion, is an overwhelming favorite to claim its third title in four years at 7 p.m. tonight.

The Bulldogs are led by sophomore Rebecca Gilman, who won the 200 and 500 freestyle races in last year's championships.

Harvard-Westlake defends its Division III girls' title at noon Saturday, but Flintridge Sacred Heart won all but two events in the Mission League finals.

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