Abraham Santana has grown to hate the sound of his alarm clock. Like most teenagers, the Merced High junior would like to remain asleep in his bed as long as possible.
Instead, like the rest of his teammates, he drags himself to Merced High pool for practice at 6 a.m.
“I’m always complaining I’m tired of morning practices,” Santana said. “I fall asleep in first period because I can’t handle it. But the hard work pays off.”
It paid off in the form of two individual titles for Santana at Saturday’s Central California Conference Swimming Championships at Pitman High. More importantly, Santana and the Merced boys swam away with the team title to clinch their eighth consecutive conference championship. Merced is 84-0 during the string of titles.
Merced finished with 531 team points. Atwater was a distant second with 406 points.
When asked why the Bears have continued to dominate the pool in the CCC, Santana’s didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“Because of coach Kit (Grattan),” Santana said. “He works us very hard. We get no rest. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday or if it’s a day off from school, we have practice every day.”
The Bears boys took home five individual titles with Santana and Ethan Eagleton winning two championships. Santana won the 100-yard butterfly (54.05 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (1:00.52). Eagleton picked up victories in the 200 individual medley (2:06.65) and the 500 freestyle (5:13.29).
Merced’s Nick Formby also repeated in the 100 backstroke (57.66).
The Pitman girls prevented the Bears from a clean sweep as the Pride won the meet with 496 points. The Merced girls fell short of their bid for a seventh consecutive title.
The two teams came in tied in the conference standings after tying their duel meet earlier this season.
“We just didn’t quite have enough,” Grattan said. “Pitman deserves to win. I was happy with how well our girls swam all year. They were really the underdogs. We were just outmanned against Pitman.”
The Pride were led by double-winner Annika Jasek, who won titles in the 200 freestyle (2:02.17) and 500 freestyle (5:21.86). Pitman’s Jillian Kennell also won the 100 butterfly (1:07.18).
Mireya Ortega stood out for the Bears by winning the 200 individual medley (2:15.85) and the 100 breaststroke (1:06.10).
Two other stars from the meet were Atwater’s Connor Norton and Buhach Colony’s Gwynne McBride.
Norton started the day by swimming the anchor leg of 200 medley relay for the Falcons and coming from behind to lead Atwater to a win with a time of 1:42.5.
Norton then won both sprints with victories in the 50 freestyle (22.00) and 100 freestyle (48.15).
“I’m really happy with my times,” Norton said. “I’m really happy with the win in the medley relay. That race is all about you and your team and I’m really proud of our team.”
A clock malfunction forced McBride to win the 50 freestyle twice. The Buhach Colony junior and the rest of the finalist swam the race, but the clock didn’t work.
So after a break, the race was restarted with McBride winning in 25.6 seconds, which was just two hundredths of a second behind the Buhach Colony record held by Noelle Farrar.
“That was really tiring,” McBride said. “I was trying to not let it effect me. I knew we would probably have to swim it again. I just tried to relax and stay calm.”
McBride said a family friend who timed her in the first race that didn’t count had her finishing in 25.51 seconds, which would have set the school record if it was accurate.
“The second race I was a little more tired,” McBride said. “I had a better start than I did in the first race. That first race I could tell I was behind early so I really focused on that.”
McBride also won the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:02.89.
The CCC swimmers will be off until the Sac-Joaquin Section trials on May 12 (girls) and May 13 (boys) at Tokay High in Lodi. The section championship meet is schedule for Saturday, May 14 at Tokay.