Panthers win Div. II girls 400 free relay

After dropping nearly seven seconds off their 400-yard freestyle relay time Friday, Porterville High School girls dropped three more seconds to swim a time of 3 minutes, 49.07 seconds and place first in CIF Central Section Division II competition at the Valley swim meet Saturday at Clovis West High School in Fresno.

“Oh that came out of nowhere, that just blew me away,” PHS girls coach Richard Taylor said. “The girls got so excited. We dropped almost seven seconds yesterday and today they dropped another three seconds, which I was not expecting. They almost got the record. They’re a little over half a second off. Which was a super fast record we had with Matlyn Morris, who was a Valley Champion in the 100 free. So that was just tremendous swims by all of them. I’m just so excited for them.”

The Panthers’ 400 free team of junior Alyssa Bodoh, freshman Claire Lee and seniors Shyanne Rainey and Rosemary Chapman, all swam their best times of the season and barely missed the school record time of 3:48.50.

“It felt good,” Lee said. “Like it felt like a nice swim and I just wanted to beat the girl next to us and I wanted to do it for our seniors. Cause this is their last swim meet ever. And I just gave it my all and it felt like a good swim.”

With this year’s Valley swim meet combining both Div. I and II swimmers, Porterville’s relay team also finished 11th in overall standings. Also because of the new setup of the meet, only 40 swimmers or teams were allowed for each event from the entire Valley and only the top 16 — regardless of division — made it out of Friday’s preliminaries and into Saturday’s finals. 

The Panthers were able to send eight girls but only Chapman qualified individually for the next day in the 100 butterfly. She placed third in Div. II with 1:03.27, and 16th overall. 

Last week when Chapman and the Porterville girls won their fourth-straight East Yosemite League title, Chapman broke the 33-year-old PHS record of 1:01.32 with 1:00.84. 

“That was awesome,” Chapman said. “That’s what I’ve been going for all four years of high school so it’s nice to finally get that done. But it’s a little disappointing to come back like the next week at the biggest meet of the year and not be able to get that same time. But I’m not beating myself up about it cause I got my goal. So that’s all that matters.”

On Chapman and his seniors, Taylor said, “She’s just a competitor every time she’s on the block. She gets in the water, she goes as hard as she can. Just so proud of her. So happy I was able to coach her for four years. Gonna miss her a lot. Gonna miss the twins, Shyanne and Samantha Rainey, I’m going to miss them a lot too. ... Love them and hope they do well when they move on to college.”

In November of last year, Chapman signed to play water polo for Fresno Pacific University while Shyanne Rainey signed to Azusa Pacific University for water polo too.

Riley has big day

Another impressive performance at Valley was from PHS junior Trevor Riley, who made it to the final day in all four of his events -— the 50 free, 100 fly, 200 free relay and 400 free relay — and dropped times in every event.

“He works really hard to stay focused,” PHS boys coach, Lance Hyder, said. “So he offers that quiet leadership on our team that shows the example without being egotistical so I appreciate that as a coach. But swimming-wise, in the 50 free ... he came in 17th, got 16th yesterday and came in 13th today. He just kept improving. That’s fun. That just took mental toughness to hang in and keep going cause, he even said he didn’t feel as good today as he did yesterday.”

In the 50 free, where Riley and Bakersfield Christian’s Jared Vegas were the only Div. II swimmers to advance to the finals, Riley placed second in Div. II and was 13th overall with 21.96. For the 100 fly, Riley was fourth in Div. II and 16th overall with 53.76. Riley shaved .45 seconds off his 50 free time and 1.05 seconds off his 100 fly time during both days.

“I felt really good, got all my best times,” Riley said about the overall meet. “It was a good meet for me.”

For the relays, the 200 free placed third in Div. II and fourth in the 400 free. Along with Riley, the two relays were made up of freshman Diego Gutierrez, junior Isaac Gutierrez and junior Ryan Davis. The Panthers’ 200 medley relay (1:43.35) also placed fourth with Ryan Davis, junior Levi Davis, freshman Ethan Merritt and junior Garrett Lamb.

“Obviously it was a different experience but I’m really proud of the boys,” Hyder said. “We tapered them all except for Trevor last week, so it’s hard to have big drops a week later. But a lot of them still managed to fight through it, and they had good drops, so really proud of that.”

Last week, Porterville boys won their seventh-straight EYL title and were able to send seven swimmers to the Valley meet.

Overall meet experience

This year’s championships were billed as a joint Div. I and II Valley meet with the overall top two finishers earning automatic bids to the CIF State meet. But medals were originally only handed out to the top eight finishers regardless of division, despite there being Div. II medals available, and the top Div. II finishers were not announced unless they were in the top eight or were the top team scores. The final result sheet posted online also did not note which swimmers were from Div. I or Div. II, only in the final team scores were divisions noted.

Overall the championship meet felt like one without divisions and swimmers were able to face the toughest competition the Valley had to offer. 

“Division I is scary,” Chapman said. “Everyone is very like, it’s very structured. They know what they’re doing. All the swimmers are so talented and they swim year round. And it’s really cool to see all of them because it’s totally different than Porterville and even Division II. All three years of high school before this, I did Division II. This is way more intense. But it’s really cool though. It’s kind of humbling to see how many good swimmers there are.”

Of the 58 teams that scored, less than 40 percent were from Div. II. However Valley champions were from Div. I and II alike, with Div. II Visalia teams totaling four Valley champions.

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