The Saddleback women's swim and dive team had a big finish at the Orange Empire Conference Finals on Saturday, finishing third in arguably the toughest conference in the state. Freshman Raselle Chetwynd led the way, finishing in the top two in three different events.
Saddleback opened the meet with marginal expectations, knowing they were facing a number of programs that could contend for the state title in a couple of weeks. After all, 12 of the past 20 state titles have been won by programs in the Orange Empire Conference so it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the OEC Finals champion would be considered one of the favorites at the state finals in two weeks.
Saddleback exceeded expectations, finishing third overall and ahead of Golden West, a program that has won four state titles in the past 18 years with the last win coming in 2013.
A handful of Gauchos had big weekends, but none bigger than Chetwynd. The freshman from San Clemente stunned the pool deck when she captured the conference title in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:57.39. Her time ended up being the fourth fastest in Saddleback program history and nipped Orange Coast swimmer Lexi Heyerly by 0.42 seconds. Chetwynd wasn't finished, finishing second in both the 100 fly and 200 fly. Her time of 1:00.04 in the 100 fly on Friday afternoon was the third fastest in program history and 2.24 seconds faster than her qualifying time earlier in the meet. On Saturday she then had another spectacular performance in the 200 fly finals, finishing in 2:11.82. It was the second fastest time in program history and 5.99 seconds faster than her qualifying time.
Joining Chetwynd with top-5 performances were four other Gauchos. Kailey Banayat had three top-5 performances, finishing second in the 100 backstroke (59.98), fourth in the 200 backstroke (2:19.40) and fifth in the 200 individual medley (2:22.95). Banayat's time in the 100 backstroke was just 0.76 seconds off the program record set back in 2000. Her time in the 200 backstroke ranks third in program history while her 200 IM time ranks No. 28.
Audra Hogan finished fifth in both the 400 individual medley (5:03.41) and 1650 freestyle (19:13.86). Her 400-IM time ranks fifth in program history while her 1650-free time ranks 10th. Hogan also finished in sixth in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:37.94.
Maddie Alexander held off a number of competitors to finish third in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:16.13. She also finished sixth in the 200 breaststroke in a time of 2:46.34, which ranks sixth in Saddleback history.
Joining the swimmers was diver Nicolette Spriggs, who finished in second in both the 1-meter dive and 3-meter dive competitions. Her score of 204.1 in the 1-meter competition was far out in front of the next competitor in the event while her 218.6 in the 3-meter competition did the same.
Saddleback will compete again at the state championships starting May 4 at East Los Angeles College.
Orange Coast, 712
Golden West, 404
Santa Ana, 159