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IF YOU GO

What: North Bay League Championships

Where: Santa Rosa Junior College

When: 4 p.m. Friday, 500-yard freestyle; preliminary races start 9:30 am. Saturday; finals start at 2 p.m.

Santa Rosa High swim coach Ericka Richards has seen it before. Spectators, and sometimes even competitors, will stop what they are doing and watch her two fastest athletes rip through the water.

“It’s fun to hear the other teams watch David and Megan,” she said. “It’s ‘Wow, look how fast they are.’”

David is David Mertz, the ultrafast junior who will race in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, plus a couple of relays, to pace the Panthers’ boys team.

Megan is Megan Jones, the ultrafast junior who will race in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, plus a couple of relays, to pace the Panthers’ girls team.

Mertz and Jones are like mirror images of each other — at least in their dominating swim performances. And it has been Mertz and Jones who for the past three years have paced the Panthers in the pool.

Santa Rosa went undefeated in dual meets this season and is looking to win a third consecutive North Bay League pennant for both the boys and girls teams at the NBL championship meet starting Friday at Santa Rosa Junior College.

“I think the team pennant is the most important thing. It’s one of my main motivations for doing it,” Mertz said.

“It” is suiting up for the Panthers when his plate is pretty full with his club swimming schedule with the Santa Rosa Neptunes. Jones, also a club swimmer, strikes the same balance.

“I feel like there is a lot of pride in our team,” she said of the Panthers. “It means something at this point. A lot of people are swimming; they are invested in the team. We are fast and we are good and we need to prove that.”

The Panthers have already proven they are fast with their perfect mark in dual meets. But challengers lurk.

The Montgomery girls squad is tough, as is the Ukiah boys team.

And while lots of fast times have been posted to get into the main event Friday and Saturday, you can’t win until you race.

And the key to winning a third pennant in a row, according to Mertz?

“All of the relays are going to be big,” he said. “Those are definitely going to be some of the big things to watch.”

Jones agreed. On the girls side, she said technique and discipline in the relay races may prove to be the difference maker.

“Relay races are always key because they are double the points,” Richards said.

A crucial race may be the 200-yard freestyle relay, in which Maria Carrillo’s foursome comes in with a time of 1:49.50 and Santa Rosa posted a 1:49.73.

Jones’ qualifying time in the 200-yard freestyle is 2:02.41. The next fastest time in the 200-yard freestyle is Maria Carrillo’s Lauren Morris at 2:07.45.

In the girls 200-yard medley, Montgomery’s Julie Kwan is the swimmer to beat, coming in with a 2:11.37, followed by fellow Viking Tessa Oliver’s 2:14.87 and Maria Carrillo’s Taylor Scobey at 2:15.14.

In the girls 50-yard freestyle, Cardinal Newman’s Grace Sorenson has the best time coming in with a 25.93.

Right behind her are Riley Fette of Montgomery at 26.73 and Hannah Tan of Maria Carrillo at 26.89.

IF YOU GO

What: North Bay League Championships

Where: Santa Rosa Junior College

When: 4 p.m. Friday, 500-yard freestyle; preliminary races start 9:30 am. Saturday; finals start at 2 p.m.

The girls 100-yard butterfly is led by Montgomery’s Oliver, who posted a 1:01.43. Maria Carrillo’s Avery Perkins comes in with a 1:02.36 and Ukiah’s Emma Flammang is just behind at 1:02.79.

The girls 100-yard freestyle race is led by Cardinal Newman’s Sorenson, but the race for second should be awesome, with four other swimmers clumped within tenths of a second of each other: Moreya Howell of Santa Rosa (59.35), Montgomery’s Fette (59.48), Carrillo’s Tan (59.85) and Santa Rosa’s Ava Kirby (59.88).

Breaking the minute barrier?

“That’s hecka fast,” Jones said.

So with at least four racers with the ability to go under a minute, that race should be fun.

Jones’ qualifying time in the 500-yard freestyle is 5:22.11 and considering that she is trying to beat a 5:03, the race here is probably for second.

Montgomery’s Marion Lea has posted a qualifying time of 5:26.53. The next fastest is Maria Carrillo’s Makayla Risch at 5:58.08.

Montgomery’s Kwan has a dominating seed time of 59.66 in the girls 100-yard backstroke. Maria Carrillo’s Perkins comes in with a 1:02.95.

The two fastest times coming into the girls 100-yard breaststroke are Rachel Pride of Santa Rosa’s 1:07.55 and Montgomery’s Lea with a 1:09.11.

But there is a pretty good knot of swimmers just behind them, all vying for crucial points.

“The 100 breast is one to watch,” Jones said. “It’s going to be really close to see who gets those points.”

In the boys 200-yard freestyle, Mertz leads the charge with a qualifying time of 1:46.42, ahead of Cameron Flood of Maria Carrillo’s 1:48.56.

Windsor’s Connor Wong is the heavy favorite in the boys 200-yard medley with a qualifying time of 2:01.86. In second is Santa Rosa’s Jayson Shinn with a time of 2:16.17.

The boys 50-yard freestyle race could be a shootout between two Ukiah aces: Charles Adams, who comes in with a 23.29; and Dean Xerogeanes, right behind at 23.65.

The boys 100-yard butterfly is led by Windsor’s Wong at 54.08, followed by Justin Wong of Santa Rosa, who posted a 55.72.

Ukiah’s Adams is coming into the boys 100-yard freestyle the top seed with a time of 51.51, ahead of Santa Rosa’s Romollo Burns at 53.32.

Mertz has posted a 4:42.75 in the boys 500-yard freestyle, ahead of Carrillo’s Flood at 4:56.50.

“He’s a great swimmer,” Mertz said of Flood.

The boys 100-yard breast stroke should be a fun one, with Ukiah’s Xerogeanes coming in with a time of 1:06.92 and Santa Rosa’s Shinn just behind with a 1:07.07.

Windsor’s Wong is again a dominant contender, this time in the boys 100-yard backstroke with a time of 57.99. Maria Carrillo’s John Madden is closest with a 1:01.45.

The fastest times will move on to the North Coast Section meet next week, but neither Jones nor Mertz seem to be looking too far ahead. League pennants are on their minds.

“This weekend, putting another pennant in the gym,” Mertz said. “That’s my main thing.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.

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