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On the Beat Swim: Freshman worthy of praise

Posted: May 27, 2014 9:47 p.m.
Updated: May 27, 2014 9:47 p.m.

With so much attention being paid to Saugus’ Abbey Weitzeil, it’s hard to blame anyone who may not have noticed a freshman doing spectacular things over at Valencia.

So let’s take a moment this week to shine a spotlight on Valencia freshman Nikol Popov, who if it weren’t for Weitzeil, would have been the major headliner at CIF-Southern Section Finals.

“Nikol is one of the hardest working swimmers I have coached,” said Valencia head coach Chris Stroh. “She never wants to lose and never gives up whether it be at practice or a meet. She doesn’t get tired. She is always hungry for more.”

Popov exploded onto the Foothill League swim scene this year, winning Foothill League titles in the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard individual medley, the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 100-yard breaststroke.

Four events at league finals, four Foothill League titles.

Oh, and that 200-yard IM title came with an added bit of spectacular: Her 2 minute, 2.08 second performance set a Foothill League finals record, set by Jordan Danny in 2009 (2:03.79)

Popov wasn’t done there, though.

At CIF-Southern Section Division I finals, the freshman lowered that time to 1.59.90, setting a new district record and again supplanting Danny off the record books, this time beating out Danny’s 2008 CIF performance of 2:03.18.

“Nikol is one of the most gifted swimmers to come through the valley,” Stroh said. “She could win almost any league title. And there was a lot of pressure on her shoulders this year, more than she knew. She stepped up in big meets and really showed what kind of talent she is. She set school records in the 50 free, 100 fly and also in the 200 IM and 100 breast.”

That individual CIF title, accompanied by her 100-yard breaststroke title, gave her two CIF titles in as many swims.

Her winning time of 1:01.17 was another district record, again topping Danny, who went 1:01.57 at the 2009 league final meet.

Speaking of records: Records have been falling fast in recent years.

Entering this year’s Foothill League finals meet, the longest standing district records (which count swims from CIF finals, as opposed to league records which are set only during the league final meet) were set in 1998 and 1999.

The 1998 record of 3:07.25 was set by Hart’s Ryan Parmenter, Eric Pritchett, Christian Kneppeck and Olympic medalist Anthony Ervin at the 1998 CIF finals.

The 1999 times, 20.21 seconds in the 50 free and 44.11 in the 100 free, were both set Ervin.

All fell this season, with Cole Cogswell supplanting both individual records (20.20 in the 50 and 43.97 in the 100) and the team of Cogswell, Austin Barreiro, Kevin Moore and Matt Johnson broke the relay record with a 3:02.41.

With those three records falling this season, historic records simply do not exist at the moment.

The oldest district record on the books is Saugus’ John Criste in the 100 breaststroke, who swam a 56.06 in 2005.

The Hart 200-medley relay team of Danny, Chelsea Griffiths, Maggie Hanson and Hayley Good, who swam a 1:44.47 in 2009, is the second oldest.

Every other record has changed hands since 2011, with 15 district records falling in 2014 between boys and girls varsity out of a combined 22 events.

The league continues to get faster, and the future looks bright.

Expect a few more records to fall next season.


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