Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Capuchino senior Ben Loudermilk competes in the 100-yard butterfly as the Mustangs won a critical PAL Ocean Division dual meet 102-62 over Half Moon Bay Thursday afternoon at Capuchino.
With just three seniors on its varsity roster, the Capuchino boys’ swimming team wasn’t supposed to make noise in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division this season.
After a 102-62 win at home over Half Moon Bay Thursday, however, Cap (4-1 in PAL Ocean) is right in the thick of the race for the league championship. Entering Thursday’s meet in a three-way tie with Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova, the win keeps the Mustangs one game back of first-place Mills (5-0).
Cap has two more dual meets to go in the PAL Ocean Division regular season, facing Terra Nova next week before concluding its schedule in what could be a shootout for the league title with archrival Mills.
“The expectation was a rebuilding year,” Capuchino head coach Marc Keirns said. “So, it’s surprising how well they’ve been doing in league this year.”
Keirns is in his fifth year at Cap and has helped take the school’s aquatics sports to the next level.
A former junior-varsity coach at water polo juggernaut Carlsbad High School, Keirns moved north to institute a water polo program at Cap in 2011-12. And the year-round pool culture has paid off for the swimming team, which two years ago saw its boys’ 200-yard freestyle relay team qualify for the Central Coast Section playoffs, Cap’s first CCS swimming appearance in 19 years.
This year, junior Nick Huang has surfaced as one of the nucleus of swimmers that have helped Cap surprise in the PAL Ocean standings. Huang — whose older brother Matt swam on the CCS qualifying 200 free relay team two years ago — emerged for four wins Thursday, leading the way in the 50 free, the 100 free, the 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay.
Cap caught a break in the sense Half Moon Bay (3-2) is on spring break this week. As a result, a good portion of its team was not available to compete. It didn’t affect the first-place Half Moon Bay girls’ team, which won to remain unbeaten in PAL Ocean dual meets. On the boys’ side, however, the result was a landslide win for Cap.
“Half Moon Bay has a reputation for being good at swimming, so we thought we were going to get destroyed,” Huang said. “But apparently a lot of their team is on spring break. So we were able to win.”
Huang posted individual times of 24.5 seconds in the 50 free, and 57.43 in the 100 free. Swimming the anchor leg of the 200 medley relay, he combined with Lucas Bezerra, Ben Loudermilk and Micahel Askndafi for a time of 1:55.93. The 400 free relay — consisting of Huang, Bezerra, Askndafi and Skyler Mak — topped the podium with a time of 3:53.44.
The meet got off to a strange start for Cap, however, when one of the swimmers on the 200 medley relay team was running late to the meet. Huang said the team initially was scrambling to retool the lineup, but that the fourth swimmer arrived just before the starting gun.
“Thank God he showed up and we didn’t have to change anything at all,” Huang said.
Despite the roster with just three seniors — Bezerra, Loudermilk and Justin Aromin-Panlasigui — now Cap is thinking big.
Last year’s senior-heavy roster had a good showing despite an early-season loss to Mills. With the league champion being decided in part by the final league standing, and in part by performance in the PAL championships, last season Cap finished in second place, just off the pace of PAL Ocean Division champion Mills.
“We didn’t do too well (in the regular-season dual meet) but I feel if we saw them again, we could have won,” Huang said. “Then at PALs we only lost to them by a couple points. So, it showed what we could do.”
Cap hosts Terra Nova next Thursday in the regular season’s penultimate dual meet. The Mustangs then travel to Mills Thursday, April 27 for the regular-season finale. The PAL boys’ championships begin with the trials on May 4, followed by the finals on May 6.