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High Schools | SPOTLIGHT ON SWIMMING

Another High Watermark

April 05, 2002|DAN ARRITT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The girls' swim team at Riverside Poly High is sailing toward another league title, making good on a spring ritual as honored as the annual Riverside Orange Blossom Festival.

The Bears have not only won the league championship every year since 1975, but have gone undefeated in the process. Coach Gwen Ritzau, who graduated from Poly the year it began the streak, said the Bears have benefited from a strong grass-roots effort in the area.

"We have lots of good little feeder programs," she said. "Most of the kids have some swimming experience by the time they get here." Poly has already passed through the heart of its Ivy League schedule this season, leaving plenty of time to prepare for the Southern Section Division II finals next month. It's one championship that has eluded the Bears, but Ritzau believes their chances this season are good.

"This is one of the best teams I've had," said Ritzau, who began coaching the Bears in 1985.

Poly features a blend of experienced competitors and eager newcomers, as well as two members of the Riverside AQuettes, a nationally recognized synchronized swim team that draws members from throughout North America.

Poly's most recognizable swimmer is Auburn-bound senior Jeri Moss, a member of the powerful Irvine Novaquatic swim team and a 2000 Olympic trials participant.

Moss, the 1997 Junior National champion in the 200 backstroke, has already gone 24.83 in the 50 freestyle this season, 53.83 in the 100 freestyle, 58.69 in the 100 backstroke and 57.83 in the 100 butterfly.

She's expected to be a key part of the 200- and 400-freestyle relay teams that have a good chance to win titles at the section finals next month.

"I think it's possible for us to get a couple firsts in individual events as well," Moss said. "We can place in the top three [in the team competition] and maybe even win if everyone can pull out their personal bests."

Moss finished second in the 100 backstroke last season at the section finals, third in the 100 butterfly and helped the 200 freestyle relay team finish second. That relay also included Katie Kishino, Amy Bickel and Monique Blanchard, each of whom returned this season.

The Bears have also welcomed back Pacific-bound senior Laura McDonald, who missed last season because of injury but won a section title in the 500 freestyle as a freshman. McDonald, another member of the Novaquatics, is also expected to be a key addition to both freestyle relay teams.

"We're feeling pretty strong," Ritzau said. "We're looking forward to the 200- and 400-[freestyle] relays. They should be pretty good."

Painful Injection

Moss is eager to perform well at the section finals after missing the Phillips 66 Spring National Championships last month in Minneapolis.

Moss decided to scratch from the meet at the last moment after mistakenly receiving an allergy shot that contained a substance banned by USA Swimming.

Moss didn't realize the mistake until hours before leaving for Minneapolis, when one of her coaches noticed a Band-Aid on her arm and asked what it was from. When Moss said it was from an allergy shot that morning, she was told that she'd better find out exactly what type of medication it contained.

"I was devastated," said Moss, who was entered in the 100 and 200 backstroke and 50 and 200 freestyle. "But it was my fault, I should have asked what was in [the shot]."

Getting Closer

Tustin senior Michael Cavic appears ready to make good on his promise to become the second swimmer to break 20 seconds in the 50 freestyle in a high school meet.

Cavic won the event Saturday in 19.63 at the Junior National Swimming Championships in Long Beach. It was the first time Cavic has swam under 20 seconds in his career.

Cavic, a 2000 Olympian for Yugoslavia, hopes to break the national high school record of 19.91, set by Houston Memorial's Anthony Robinson in 1997.

Because Saturday's meet only included club teams, Cavic's time does not count as a record.

Added Edge

The Santa Barbara girls' team expected to be strong with the return of its entire team that went undefeated in the Channel League last season, won the Santa Barbara County Championships and finished 11th in Southern Section Division I.

But the Dons have been given an extra boost from freshman Haley Wilson, who has already qualified for the section finals in six events, including a 54.13 effort in the 100 freestyle.

Hart Warming

The Newhall Hart girls' swim team is three wins away from 100 consecutive league wins and boys' swimmer David Deloria recently became the first swimmer in Hart history to be on all its top 10 lists.

Note: Because most high school teams did not compete over spring break, Times rankings will resume next week. For a listing of top individual performances this season, go to the swimming icon on our Web site, at *

latimes.com/preps

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