One definition for obnoxious is "very annoying." However, as applied to the Eastlake High School swim team by head coach Bryan Monzon, it's a compliment of the highest order.
"This is probably the most fun I've had with a group," the EHS coach said. "They know the difference between working hard and working hard and having fun at the same time. If there is one word to describe them, it would probably be obnoxious, just a little like me."
If the standings remain as they are, the Titans are in line to repeat as Mesa League girls champions while the EHS boys team may have to settle for a runner-up finish to the Otay Ranch Mustangs. The Titan girls team improved to 4-0 in league duals after defeating Hilltop, 122-56, April 22; the Eastlake boys squad improved to 3-1 in league meets following its 111-73 victory against the Lancers.
Both the Titan boys and girls teams claimed league titles last season. The EHS girls team, keyed by Jacquie Kimmel and Taylor Stoddard, went on to place fourth at the ensuing San Diego Section Division I championship meet. It was the fourth consecutive top four section finish for the Titans after capturing consecutive third-place finishes in 2007 and 2008. Eastlake placed fourth in 2006.
"Not having Jacquie Kimmel or Taylor Stoddard in the line-up will be a huge impact for us at CIF but I still expect our top swimmers to swim their best times," Monzon said. "If I can get everyone to swim their best, we will be successful as a team."
Swimmers to watch on this year's EHS girls team include senior Andrea Voigt and junior Justine Maher.
Voigt and Maher return from last year's section record-setting relays in the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle events. They were joined last season by Kimmel and Stoddard. The Titans, braced by two new swimmers in the group, will be going for a three-peat in both events after winning section titles in 2008 and 2009.
Eastlake lowered the section record in the 200 freestyle relay to 1:38.73 last year and the 400 freestyle relay record time to 3:29.65.
Voigt finished second in the 100 freestyle and third in the 200 freestyle at last year's Division I finals after winning league titles in both events.
Maher placed fifth in the 50 freestyle and sixth in the 100 butterfly at the 2009 CIF finals. She finished second to Kimmel in the 50 freestyle at last year's league finals and also paced third in the 100 butterfly.
Monzon calls Maher one of the top sprinters in the section. "It's kind of her year to do well," the EHS coach said.
Other impact swimmers on the girls team include senior Jessica Moreno (200 individual medley), juniors Aabra Ahmed (100 backstroke) and Simone Banks (100 breaststroke) and freshman Sharon Jimenez (500 freestyle).
Moreno (500 freestyle) and Banks (breaststroke) each placed second in their respective events at last year's Mesa League championship meet while Ahmed was fourth in the 100 freestyle and fifth in the 100 backstroke.
Moreno also added a fourth-place medal in the 100 breaststroke at last year's league meet.
Voigt and Maher turned in whirlwind performances at this year's Sundevil Invitational, held March 20 at Mt. Carmel High School. Voigt won the girls 200 freestyle (1:54.57) and finished second in the 100 freestyle (53.18) while Maher finished second in the 50 freestyle (24.91).
The Titans won the girls 200 freestyle relay (1:42.18) and finished fifth in the 200 medley relay (1:57.40). Banks, Maher, Voigt and sophomore Kerry Lindsay comprised the winning freestyle relay while Maher, Banks, Moreno and Voigt comprised the medley unit.
Eastlake finished fifth as a team in the section-wide meet.
"We want them all to do their best swims at CIF," the EHS coach said of his 2010 group. "After the team stuff is over (league finals), I want everyone to have awesome individual swims."
Monzon said this year's boys team is one of the largest he has coached in recent seasons and also populated by genuine aquatic talent. "We got a lot of guys who were playing polo who are now learning about endurance swimming," the EHS coach said. "We also have a group of younger swimmers. It's a good mix with our experienced group."
Swimmers to watch on this year's EHS boys team include Nick Garduno and Jason DeMoss, both seniors, and junior Ian Muhlbach.
DeMoss is the defending Mesa League champion in the 500 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.
Garduno finished sixth in both the 200 IM and 100 butterfly at last year's league finals while Muhlbach was seventh in the 100 freestyle. Both have made significant improvement this year.
Garduno was ill and did not compete in the Titans' five-point dual meet loss to Otay Ranch on April 13.
Muhlbach is the team's sprint freestyler. He already owns a 23.5 time in the 50 freestyle and out-dueled Hilltop standout Alex Kennedy by 1.47 seconds to win the 100 freestyle in the team's marathon five-hour dual meet on April 22.
"I have high expectations for Jason, in particular, to have a great senior season and be able to walk on the swim team at Cal Poly next season," Monzon said. "Andrea is going to Cal Poly as well."
The EHS coach said if Garduno can continue to lower his best times that the senior standout has a good chance of making the CIF championship finals and, at least, the consolation finals.
Other talented swimmers on this year's boys team include sophomores Eric Hum (200 IM and 100 backstroke) and Adam Hilborn (100 breaststroke).
The Titans are also buoyed by a pair of sophomore swimmers: Tyler Rowean and Micah Fluhart.
Rowean stole the show at the boys junior varsity level with a tremendous performance in a dual meet against Hilltop. He captured first-place finishes in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly while also swimming legs on Eastlake's victorious 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams.
"Tyler is an extremely dedicated athlete," Monzon said of Rowean. "He is among the hardest workers on our team and his work has shown. He is also among a small group of the most improved swimmers. He's great to have on the team."
Fluhart has to be considered one of the most inspirational swimmers in the South Bay. He is currently in remission from leukemia after suffering through two bouts with the deadly blood disorder. He won both the JV 50 and 100 freestyle events against Hilltop by commanding margins.
"I did OK last year and thought I'd give it another try," said Fluhart, who played water polo on the EHS JV team in the fall. "I'm using this for conditioning, to keep in shape for the water polo season."
The Mesa League swim championships are scheduled May 8 at 9 a.m. at the Loma Verde pool. The Titans will be out to top the field in both the girls and boys finals.
"Even if our boys won, it still wouldn't give us the banner because the league championship is decided by the dual meets," Monzon said. "But it's a great motivation tool."
Eastlake won 10 of 12 events in the girls varsity meet against Hilltop, winning everything except the diving competition and the 500 freestyle event. The 200 medley relay unit of Voigt, Banks, Moreno and Kelsey Schauer timed 2:02.20. The foursome of Voigt, Banks, Josselyn Molina and Maher won the 200 freestyle relay while the Titan quartet of Ahmed, Molina, Jeanna Steiner and Maher won the 400 freestyle relay.
In individual events, Voigt won the 200 freestyle (2:01.25) and 100 butterfly (1:04.82) while Maher captured first-place finishes in the 50 freestyle (25.31) and 100 freestyle (56.08). Moreno won the 200 IM in 2:27.18 while Ahmed won the 100 backstroke in 1:07.29 and Banks won the 100 breaststroke in 1:13.53.
Hilltop's Ashley Johnson captured the diving competition with 134.8 points while Jocelyn Jimenez (5:42.79) starred in the 500 freestyle by out-dueling Eastlake freshman Sharon Jimenez (5:46.29).
The Titans went 1-2-3 in the 100 and 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
The Lancers swept the diving competition, with Ashley Relph (133.0 points) and Marissa Ringwald (125.3 points) finishing second and third, respectively.
In the varsity boys competition, Eastlake won nine of the 12 events, sweeping the top three place-finishes in the 200 freestyle and 200 IM. DeMoss won the 200 freestyle (1:55.89) and 500 freestyle (5:04.84) while Hum captured top finishes in the 200 IM (2:14.0) and 100 backstroke (1:05.56). Other Titan individual event winners included Muhlbach in the 100 freestyle (51.56) and Adam Hilborn in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.09).
Hum, DeMoss, Garduno and Muhlbach timed 1:51.83 to win the meet-opening 200 medley relay while the same unit clocked 3:41.15 to win the meet-concluding 400 freestyle relay.
Hilltop won the 50 freestyle (Kennedy in 23.30) and 200 freestyle relay (Shane Garvin, Roman Gonzalez, Oscar Vizcarra and Kennedy in 1:39.47). The Lancers also swept the diving competition, led by Garvin with 148.8 points. Leo Diaz de Leon was second with 147.3 points, followed by Aaron Siaumau with 146.95 points in a closely contested event among teammates.
There were two bang-bang finishes. Kennedy out-touched Muhlbach (23.45) by 0.15 seconds in the 50 freestyle while Hilborn claimed a 0.57-second victory over Vizcarra (1:11.66) in the 100 breaststroke.
Eastlake won the girls JV meet 113-44 and the boys JV meet by a 95-58 score.
In a tri-meet at the Las Palmas pool on April 22, Mesa League boys leader Otay Ranch defeated Mater Dei Catholic, 96-81, while holding Chula Vista Calvary Christian to 10 points. In the girls meet, Otay Ranch topped Mater Dei 110-23.