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Fallbrook girls swimmers take league championship

McMahon, Kendall, Dowden, two relay teams individual champions

Fallbrook High School's girls swim team captured the Valley League team league championship while senior Kela Kendall, senior Ava Dowden, junior Maile McMahon, and the Warriors' 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay teams won individual league championships.

Regular-season standings account for half of the formula which determines the final league team championship positions with the other half based on positions at the league meet. Individual league championships are based solely on the results at the league finals.

The league meet was held at Fallbrook High School. The swim preliminaries which determined who advanced to the A, B, and C finals took place April 25, the diving was contested April 26, and the swim finals were held April 27. Schools were allowed up to four swimmers or divers in each individual event, and position points were given for the top 18 marks.

"A pleasant surprise. Going into the season we were not sure how we were going to do," said Fallbrook coach Sean Redmond.

Last year Fallbrook won all seven league dual meets while Ramona had a 6-1 record with the Bulldogs' only loss taking place at Fallbrook. Ramona's girls had a 44-point advantage over Fallbrook in the league meet to give the Bulldogs a share of the league championship at the expense of the Warriors winning it outright.

"Going into the season I knew Ramona was going to be tough, which they were," Redmond said.

Fallbrook and Ramona both took 6-0 league records into their April 19 dual meet at Ramona. Fallbrook won that by a 103-83 score. "It was a close meet," Redmond said.

Redmond and Ramona coach Garrett Glaudini previewed the league meet based on entries. Both predicted Fallbrook to win by about 20 points if all swimmers performed to expectations. "There was not a whole lot of wiggle room," Redmond said.

"The key to the whole meet was going to be in prelims," Redmond said. "We had to do well in prelims."

For individual races the A final competitors automatically have the top six positions regardless of whether a consolation time is faster, and the B final race positions automatically determine seventh through twelfth place even if a swimmer in the C final has a faster time.

"In prelims they swam fantastic and it set everything up for us in finals, so I was pleased with that," Redmond said. "In finals the girls stepped it up even faster."

Fallbrook won the league meet with 549 points. Ramona was second with 450 points. San Pasqual had the third-place score of 325 points.

Five judges scored each dive. The highest score and the lowest score were discarded, and the three middle scores were added together and then multiplied by the dive's degree of difficulty to determine the score for each dive. In 2022 McMahon and Ramona's Piper Williams were freshmen when McMahon won the league championship with 211.25 points on six dives and Williams had the ninth-place score of 118.85 points. Last year Williams won the league meet with 158.65 points while McMahon had a score of 132.60 for seventh place; Escondido Charter's Jay Bresko accumulated 150.15 points for third place.

McMahon won this year's championship with a score of 209.70 points. "That was exciting to see what she did," Redmond said.

Bresko, who is currently a sophomore, had 208.65 points. "Her last dive, that was just the difference," Redmond said of McMahon.

A back 1 1/2 somersault 1/2 twist has a 2.1 degree of difficulty, so that multiplication gave McMahon the league championship. "That last dive was a new dive for her," Redmond said.

Williams, who is now a junior, was less successful on her more difficult dives. Her score of 176.55 points placed fifth, immediately behind a pair of Fallbrook sophomores. Emylee Turner scored 186.70 points and Dalanie Stroney had 185.00 points. Fallbrook's other diver, freshman Tatun Cahalan, had the eighth-place score of 151.05 points.

Fallbrook's pool has six lanes and the 2024 Valley League had eight teams, so preliminaries were held for the relay races with the four fastest teams swimming in one final and the other four relay teams participating in the other final. Relay teams in the A final were not guaranteed a position in the top four if a team in the B final had a faster time, but the stronger competition in the A final likely meant faster times for all teams involved. "It was key that we stepped it up in the preliminaries," Redmond said.

Fallbrook's 200-yard medley relay team of junior Liesel Young, senior Ava Dowden, senior Kela Kendall, and senior Ava Papoulias won the final with a time of 1:58.66. "That was our best relay time for the season," Redmond said. "Everything lined up for them that race."

Pacific Ridge had the second-place time of 2:01.68. Ramona was third at 2:02.34.

Fallbrook had three swimmers in the 200-yard freestyle A final. "It showed the depth that we had," Redmond said.

Papoulias was joined in the A final by freshmen Ella Martinez and Ava Bird. "Having two freshmen in the top six was really encouraging," Redmond said.

"They went out after it," Redmond said. "They swam extremely well."

Valley Center junior Abigail Martinez won the A final in 1:57.72. "We knew it was going to be a tough race," Redmond said.

Papoulias had the second-place time of 2:04.68, Ella Martinez finished third at 2:06.39, and Bird gave Fallbrook sixth-place points with a time of 2:13.89. Fallbrook's other swimmer in that event, sophomore Sofia Max, took 11th place and had a time of 2:36.84.

Fallbrook also took second and third in the 200-yard individual medley. Valley Center sophomore Kiana Harrington won the race in 2:18.38, Dowden finished in 2:19.51, and Kendall had a time of 2:24.97. "On the girls side that was probably one of the best events, best races there was. It was close," Redmond said.

The individual medley concludes with the freestyle stroke. Last year Harrington competed in the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle at the league meet and finished second in both events. "She was able to catch Ava right there at the end," Redmond said.

A time of 2:48.93 in the B final gave sophomore Linnea Harrington tenth place. The 14th-place time of junior Olivia Searle was 2:57.13.

Redmond and most of the league's other coaches conceded the 50-yard freestyle to Ramona junior Katie Dusseault, who won that event for the third year in a row. The three swimmers who gave Fallbrook points in that event are all freshman. Emma Votaw took 11th place with a time of 30.17 seconds, Bailee Stevens had a 32.15-second performance for 16th place, and Stephanie Walsh earned 17th place with a swim of 32.29 seconds.

Kendall also finished third in last year's 200-yard individual medley, and she was fourth in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 1:06.76. Her winning time in the butterfly this year was 1:03.08. Mission Hills senior Callan Kamerlander had the second-place time of 1:03.51.

"That was definitely an exciting race and a pleasant surprise. I knew she'd go under 1:05. I knew she was going to have a tough race with Callan," Redmond said. "It really surprised her how fast she went, but I think we knew she was capable of doing that."

Linnea Harrington had the 11th-place time of 1:18.63, sophomore Elsie Ritchie finished 12th at 1:20.78, and Stevens had a time of 1:31.37 for 17th place.

Dusseault also won the 100-yard freestyle for the third consecutive year. Bird was fifth with a time of 59.10 seconds. "You never know what freshmen are going to do," Redmond said. "Ava came in with some promise."

Young finished the B final in 1:00.17 for eighth place and freshman Miranda Minderman finished ninth at 1:07.96. The 18th-place time of 1:12.35 was obtained by sophomore Susanna Kazsuk.

Kiana Harrington won the 500-yard freestyle, but Fallbrook had three swimmers in the A final. Papoulias finished her laps in 5:37.47 for fourth, Martinez had the fifth-place time of 5:39.63, and sophomore Claire Lucia gave Fallbrook sixth-place points with a 5:45.02 performance. Votaw had a time of 6:28.10 for 11th.

Valley Center won the 200-yard freestyle relay race in 1:46.31. Bird, Kendall, Lucia, and Martinez had the second-place time of 1:47.79. Ramona earned third-place points with a time of 1:48.64.

"I thought they did very well," Redmond said. "We knew it was going to be a tough race with Valley Center and Ramona."

The Fallbrook quartet included two freshmen. "They weren't afraid to go up against the other teams," Redmond said.

Young had a time of 1:09.46 in the 100-yard backstroke to finish third. She was 12th in that event last year and had not previously qualified for the A final in any individual event.

"It was exciting and great to see because of the amount of hard work she's done all summer," Redmond said. "She had an opportunity, and she took advantage of it."

Ritchie finished eighth with a time of 1:16.13. Searle had the 11th-place time of 1:20.62. Cahalan completed the C final in 1:26.29 for 16th place.

The breaststroke win gave Dowden league championships in each of her four high school seasons. Although her time of 1:15.95 in the 2021 breaststroke placed her fourth in that event, she was on the winning 200-yard freestyle relay team. Dowden won the 2022 breaststroke championship with a time of 1:10.03. Her winning time in the 2023 breaststroke was 1:12.41.

This year Dowden won the breaststroke in 1:12.15. "She wanted to win the event, but she also wanted to go faster," Redmond said.

Dowden is the youngest of five children, all girls, and all five have swum for the Warriors. Taylor Dowden, who graduated in 2016, holds the school 100-yard breaststroke record which is 1:08.74. Ava Dowden was not successful in breaking her sister's record.

Paris Dowden, who graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2021, won the league breaststroke championship in 2019 and the 100-yard freestyle championship in 2018. Taylor Dowden won both the breaststroke and the individual medley in both 2015 and 2016, and in 2014 when Fallbrook was in the Avocado West League she was on both winning freestyle relay teams.

"She was able to maintain the family standard for that," Redmond said of Ava Dowden. "That was exciting for her to do that in front of her family and in her home pool."

Valley Center junior Gabrielle Shirley was second in the breaststroke with a time of 1:16.59. Lucia swam the race in 1:18.62 for fourth place.

Her preliminary race was Lucia's first time under 1:20 in the breaststroke. "Over the week she had some nice time drops on that," Redmond said. "That excitement carried over in the finals."

Max was in the B final and had a time of 1:25.17 for tenth place.

The meet concluded with the 400-yard freestyle relay. "The girls and I felt that would be anybody's race between us, Ramona, and Valley Center," Redmond said.

Dowden anchored Fallbrook's quartet. Dusseault was Ramona's fourth swimmer. Abigail Martinez swam the final 100 yards for Valley Center.

"We wanted to give Ava Dowden as much of a lead as possible to be able to hold on to in that event, and that's what they did," Redmond said.

Bird, Ella Martinez, Papoulias, and Dowden won the race in 3:48.64. Ramona finished in 3:49.32. Valley Center had a time of 3:49.42.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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