Santa Margarita girls win third CIF State swimming title, set national record

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FRESNO — Santa Margarita’s girls swimming team showed its record-setting finishing kick. The Eagles’ boys continued their climb. Sonora’s Matthew Chai flashed his competitive spirit. And Laguna Hills’ Tona Zinn displayed his perseverance.

Orange County delivered a plethora of speed and storylines at the CIF State swimming and diving championships Saturday at Clovis West High.

When the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex pool finally calmed, Santa Margarita’s girls stood above the rest. The Eagles highlighted their third CIF state title by setting the overall national high school record in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

It was the first national swimming record set at the sixth-year meet, which wasn’t held the past two years because of the pandemic.

“Just unbelievable,” Santa Margarita co-coach Rich Blanc said. “That was the fastest of all-time.”

The 400 free relay of junior Macky Hodges, sophomore Teia Salvino, freshman Teagan O’Dell and senior anchor Justina Kozan combined to clock a time of 3 minutes, 14.80 seconds, breaking Carmel of Indiana’s 2015 record (3:15.38) by more than half-a-second.

Kozan exited the pool and immediately hugged the other relay members.

“I didn’t feel too much pressure because everyone was cheering for me,” said the USC-bound Kozan, who split her anchor in a lifetime-best 48.67. “When I was swimming, in my head, I was like ‘I got to do it. I have to.’ It was a lot of fun.”

Hodges led off in a swift 49.18. Salvino followed with a 49.20 before O’Dell unleashed an eye-popping and lifetime-best 47.75 split to set the stage for Kozan.

Santa Margarita’s boys followed moments later by setting the Orange County record in the 400 free relay to clinch a program-best, second-place finish behind Loyola in the team competition.

Santa Margarita’s boys 400 free of Hunter Cehelnik, Allen Cai, Jaden Ficklen and Tony Ju placed second to Loyola (meet-record 2:58.50) with a county-record 3:01.96, edging Capistrano Valley’s 2013 O.C. mark by seventh one-hundredths of a second.

Santa Margarita’s girls won all three relays and had Kozan, Salvino and O’Dell each win two titles apiece.

The girls opened the meet by winning the 200 medley relay in a county- and meet-record of 1:39.04. The team of Hodges, O’Dell, Kozan and Lindsay Ervin sliced about half-a-second off their county record.

Kozan won the 200 free in a meet-record 1:44.63, about three-tenths of a second ahead of Virginia-bound Claire Tuggle of St Joseph of Santa Maria. Kozan also won the 100 butterfly in 52.75.

Salvino swept the 50 (22.58) and 100 (49.34) freestyles in lifetime-best times. O’Dell touched first in the 200 individual medley (1:55.15) and 100 backstroke (meet-record 52.27) in personal-best times.

Chai, Zinn and San Juan Hills’ David Schmitt also claimed individual state titles.

In one of the most anticipated races, Chai outdueled Rex Maurer of Loyola to capture the 500 free in a meet-record 4:15.09.

At the CIF-SS Finals last week, Maurer and Chin clocked two of the fastest times in high school history as they won Division 1 (4:13.90) and Division 2 (4:15.91), respectively, on the same day.

On Saturday, the Cal-bound Chin passed Maurer in the final 150 yards to outdistance the junior by more than two seconds. The pair exchanged a fist bump before exiting the pool. “(He’s) definitely pushed me a lot and I’m sure I’ve been pushing him, too,” Chai said.

Zinn claimed his first state title by taking the 200 individual medley in 1:46.47, which matched his best time.

In December, the Northwestern-bound senior suffered a concussion, cheekbone fractures and a cut chin during a collision at school pep rally. And a few months later, he was hospitalized for about a week after his body reacted adversely to extra workouts and lacking hydration and nutrition.

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