Elizabeth Fleming and Mary Hagins displayed their dominance in last Saturday’s Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division Swimming Championships at Hartnell College. For Fleming, it was a memorable finish to the penultimate meet of her career, as she won two individual events, proving to be the fastest girl in the PCAL.
The San Benito High senior won the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events, establishing a personal-record (PR) in the 100. Fleming led from start to finish in both races, going 24.73 seconds in the 50 free and 54.58 in the 100 free, her first-ever sub 60 second time ever. She also was a member of the Haybalers’ victorious 200 medley and 400 free relay teams.
“Last year we got second (in the 200 medley), so our goal this year was to get first,” said Fleming, who will compete in the upcoming Central Coast Section Championships and is the only South Valley area swimmer with a top 10 seed time in any event, with her time in the 50 free, at 24.42 seconds, ranking seventh. “I feel accomplished and good about myself and thankful for my coaches, especially for coach Jud (Shutts). I’m so happy with how things went. I finally broke a 55 (in the 100 free), something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.”
Fleming felt absolutely dynamite in her new Speedo Fastskin swim suit, and coincidence or not, she was the class of the field in the 100 as the only girl to go sub 55 seconds.
“This was my first time using the Fastskin, and I felt smoother, faster and stronger,” said Fleming, who earned her third consecutive title in the 50 free. “I really wanted to win and put it out there in my last ever league championships.”
Fleming’s No. 7 seed time for CCS says a lot about her ability, as few swimmers from the South Valley area—covering Morgan Hill, Gilroy and Hollister—earn that distinction. Hagins has come on strong in her junior season, and even though she didn’t hit any PRs on Saturday, she cruised to victory in the 200 individual medley and 100 back stroke.
Hagins covered the 200 IM in an impressive 2 minutes, 10.40 seconds, over six seconds faster than the second-place finisher. She was also the only girl to go sub 60 seconds in the 100 back, clocking in a time of 58.53 seconds for a 4 ½ second advantage over the runner-up. In short, Hagins was the class of the entire PCAL field in her two individual events.
“I wanted to take this meet a little more seriously,” Hagins said. “I tend not to take dual meets seriously, even in the league championships last year I wasn’t super serious about it. But I wanted to this year to have a better setup for what I can do in CCS because it’s better practice when you know what has to be fixed. It was focusing on the warmup, trying to eat and hydrate throughout the day and doing just what I can do during the race.”
If Hagins continues to drop her times, she’ll be a serious threat to reach the second day of the CCS Championships, something that doesn’t happen often in regards to South Valley area swimmers. Hagins repeated as Gabilan Division champion in the 200 IM and 100 back, but it takes a lot for her to be satisfied, which is one of the keys to her success.
“It’s nice to win, but I know I can go faster,” she said. “It’s not quite the times I wanted, and I know I can be smoother and my stroke can be better.”
Sophomore Jaya Waller was ecstatic about her meet performance, as she took first in the 200 free in 2:01.83 and second in the 100 breast stroke in 1:10.26.
“I’ve been trying to hit the CCS cut all season, and things finally clicked,” Waller said. “On the last lap, I just kept pushing and pushing from inside the lane, knowing I needed to make the cut. When I made the turn, I kind of saw the competition and told myself to go faster and faster. (In the 200 free) I went out pretty fast and was able to keep my pace. It was my best time all season, and I’m finally doing what I’ve been working hard on all season.”
It’s been several years since the Balers have had a trio like Fleming, Hagins and Waller, who continually improve and are determined to maximize their athletic best. Bridget Murphy teamed up with the trio to win the 200 medley relay, and Maya Villegas was part of the victorious 400 free relay squad that finished in 3:49.46. Colette Friedley of Anzar won the Mission Division title in the 200 IM in 2:17.27, and took second in the 500 free in 5:41.71.
On the boys side, San Benito’s 200 IM relay team of Connor Murphy, Kenneth Kliewer, Adam Bonnet and Troy Blevins placed third in 1:54.01. Bonnet finished in second place in the 500 free in 4:56.42 and third place in the 200 free in 1:49.05, while Kliewer took third in the 100 breast stroke in 1:11.45.