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Merced High swimmers dominate CCC championships

The Speedos change but the results stay the same for the Merced High swim team.

The Bears boys and girls continued their dominance of the Central California Conference by winning the conference championships on Thursday afternoon at Buhach Colony. The boys wrapped up their sixth consecutive title with 555 points. Atwater finished second with 419.

For the girls it was their fifth in a row, as they edged Pitman 552-542.

“It’s pretty important to us,” said Merced junior Josh Fluetsch, who led the way with wins in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle events. “We lost a lot of big swimmers from last year. To keep the streak going feels good.”

Fluetsch was one of the stars of the meet. His time in the 200 (1 minute, 44.08 seconds) was the second fastest time in CCC meet history. He then broke the 500 record with a time of 4:42.36. He broke Jesse Lanzon of Turlock’s record, which was set in 1996.

“I’m delighted with my time,” Fluetsch said. “I had been going 1:47 (in the 200) most of the season. To go 3 seconds faster feels good. We have a four-week break until sections. It’ll give me a chance to work hard for three weeks and then taper the last week. Hopefully I can improve my time by another 3 seconds.”

Fluetsch wasn’t the only swimmer to attack the record book.

Golden Valley senior Connor Hoppe broke his own record in the 100 breaststroke by touching the wall in 55.68.

How fast was Hoppe’s time?

Merced’s Isaac Santana finished second with a time of 1:00.86, which is the seventh fastest time in the meet’s history. It was still over 5 seconds off of Hoppe’s time.

Hoppe, who is headed to Cal on a swimming scholarship, also won the 50 freestyle with a time of 21.39, which was the second fastest time in meet history.

Hoppe was unsure if he broke the record in the breaststroke while he was still in the pool.

“At first I couldn’t see the time because the tarps were blocking the scoreboard,” he said. “I found out later and I was pleased. I’m happy I was faster than I was on Saturday (at the Stanislaus County Championships). As long as I keep getting faster without shaving or tapering, but there’s still a lot of work I need to get done before sections.”

Hoppe now owns three of the top 10 fastest times in the breaststroke in CCC championship history.

“When you think about it, it’s pretty cool,” Hoppe said. “Leaving a legacy is pretty sweet. It’s nice that I was able to do that.”

Buhach Colony freshman Gwynne McBride was impressive in winning the 200 and 500 freestyle events with times of 2:00.92 and 5:25.77, respectively.

“I started swimming when I was 4 years old, it’s always been a part of me,” McBride said. “I was really shooting to win both events. I wanted to show people what I can do as a freshman.”

Golden Valley’s Patrick Koenig and Merced’s Matt Cagle had a couple close battles in the 100 butterfly and backstroke.

Koenig edged Cagle in the butterfly, winning 53.87 to 54.29.

“It was awful,” Koenig said. “Coming off the first 50, I look to my side and I know it’s Cagle. The last 50 I was trying to push away, but I looked at the last wall and he was right there. I kept getting close to the lane line because I wasn’t looking at the wall, I was looking to my side. Coming to the end, I just had to give it everything I had.”

Cagle got his revenge in the backstroke, defeating Koenig 55.41 to 55.45. Their times for both events ranked in the top 10 all time for the CCC meet.

The Merced girls were able to edge Pitman with the help of double-winners Mireya Ortega (200 IM and 100 breaststroke) and Jande Monteon (50 free and 100 free). Luarel Carpenter (100 fly) and Taylor Schaller (100 back) also won events. The Bears also swept all three relays.

Brandon Villegas won the 200 IM for the Merced boys.

Atwater’s Hans van Warmderam won the 100 freestyle with a time of 48.27, which ranked 10th all time. Van Warmerdam also teamed up with Mitchell Moreda, Ben Peterson and Josh Heller to win the 200 freestyle relay. Their time of 1:32.03 was the 10th fastest time in meet history.