Record-setting Santa Margarita swimmers highlight Trinity League spring sports

By RICHARD DUNN     6/26/2015

If the definition of a sports dynasty is measured by consecutive championships, then the Santa Margarita High girls’ swimming and diving program is setting the standard.

For the 16th consecutive year, the Eagles captured the Trinity League title, while adding a second straight CIF Southern Section Division I championship to highlight the league’s 2015 spring sports season.

Whether it’s comparing the Eagles’ string of Trinity League titles to the Boston Celtics, New York Yankees or legendary former UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, who guided the Bruins to seven straight NCAA titles and 10 national championships during his reign, it is clear that the Santa Margarita girls’ swim team is one of the great sports dynasties in Orange County history.

In 2015, Santa Margarita also won the CIF Division II championship in boys’ tennis and the Division III title in girls’ track and field, while Servite High School secured the CIF Western Region banner in boys’ golf.

But Santa Margarita’s girls’ swim team claimed the only CIF Division I team championship among Trinity League schools.

Leading the way for the Eagles in the pool were Katie McLaughlin and Samantha Shelton, the Orange County and Trinity League swimmers of the year, respectively, along with Sydney Franzen, Kristi Fecarotta and freshman Isabella Odgers. Among other titles, the Eagles notched their fourth straight CIF Division I championship in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

The UC Berkeley-bound McLaughlin, who swam the final four laps in the Eagles’ winning free relay, finished the spring with a national high school record in the 100 butterfly and three Orange County records, in addition to a share of an undefeated CIF Division I team championship.

In the CIF Division I championships, McLaughlin clocked a time of 51.53 seconds in the 100 fly for the national mark, breaking her own mark set last year (51.78) and topping the overall record of 51.70 established by Beata Nelson of Verona/Mount Horeb High in Wisconsin last November.

In McLaughlin’s final race, she split her 400 anchor in a remarkable 48.11 as the Eagles touched the wall first in a CIF Division I record time of 3:21.04. It was the fourth straight season in which McLaughlin anchored the winning relay in the CIF Finals.

In boys’ swimming, Santa Margarita’s Alexander Qu and Grant Shoults earned Trinity League Co-Swimmers of the Year honors.

Shoults, a junior, broke the national private high school record in the 200 free in 1:34.54 and established an Orange County record in the 500 free in 4:15.56, breaking two-time Olympian Larsen Jensen’s record by more than a second. As a team, the Eagles placed sixth in CIF Division I.

In golf, Servite seniors Matt Wilson and Brandon Brame led the Friars, with Wilson posting a six-under 136 at Yorba Linda Country Club to win the Trinity League individual title by a dazzling 12 shots, becoming the first player to win the tournament twice. Wilson set a school record by shooting under par in seven straight matches. His two-under 69 at Whispering Lakes helped Servite win the CIF Western Region championship, in which Brame carded a one-over 72.

In track and field, Santa Margarita teammates Kate Thomas and Kaitlyn Merritt shared the CIF Division III pole vault title as they both cleared 13 feet. It was Merritt’s fourth straight championship in the pole vault.

In boys’ tennis, Santa Margarita won Trinity League and CIF Division II titles behind two solid doubles teams.

Santa Margarita seniors Ryan Dugan and Jordan Geis won the Trinity League doubles title, then split up for the Eagles’ CIF team championship run in the playoffs, with Dugan playing No. 1 singles and Geis continuing to excel in doubles.

Santa Margarita featured two of the top eight doubles teams in the Southern Section, including seniors Max Boice and Ricky Kurtz, who dominated the competition throughout the season.

In baseball, JSerra was crowned Trinity League champion and enjoyed Orange County’s No. 1 ranking throughout most of the spring. The Lions were led by pitchers Quentin Longrie and Jack Owen, infielders Royce Lewis and Chase Strumpf and center fielder Brady Shockey. Lewis was the Trinity League Player of the Year.

In softball, Mater Dei captured the Trinity League championship behind senior Morganne Flores, who was one of the best defensive catchers in Orange County and provided the bulk of the Monarchs’ pop in the lineup.

The Washington-bound Flores batted .439 with five home runs and 32 RBI, and delivered at the plate during an important stretch in the season when she went 5 for 8 against Santa Margarita and Orange Lutheran.