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North Bay League swimmers face off in championships, try to qualify for North Coast Section meet

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Strong preliminary times in the girls 100-yard butterfly Friday during the North Bay League swim championships should set up a speedy final on Saturday as swimmers try to qualify for the North Coast Section meet.

The area’s strongest high school swimmers will be crowned Saturday as the NBL championships conclude at Santa Rosa Junior College.

On Friday, dozens of swimmers and divers from 12 schools finished preliminary heats that narrow down the fields to 16 competitors — eight in each of two heats in Saturday’s finals.

For the top swimmers — ones who already have times good enough to qualify for the section meet — Friday was a tuneup for the postseason. For others on the cusp, it was an important meet individually and for team points.

In one of the closest events Friday, Tessa Oliver of Montgomery swam a 58.89-second 100 butterfly, besting Avery Perkins of Maria Carrillo’s time of 58.75. Oliver was the top overall seed among the 24 entrants, with a 1:00.25 seed time.

Both times were season bests for the girls.

“That’s going to be the race to watch,” Carrillo coach Rick Niles said afterward. “That will be a good one.”

Megan Jones of Santa Rosa also bested her 2:02.96 seed time in the 200-yard freestyle, swimming a 2:00.10 race Friday to win her heat and retain the top spot for the finals.

“My goal is to make my NCS time today,” she said. “My plan was to go under two minutes today, so I missed that by a little bit, but I think I will make the top 40” to go to the section meet.

She hopes for a 1:55 Saturday, when she’ll be in the water next to her friend Lauren Morris of Carrillo, who won her heat in 2:09.

“I want to beat that in the finals,” Morris said. “I hope tomorrow I will be able to take it up a notch.”

Santa Rosa’s David Mertz, among the best boys swimmers, won his heat in the 200 freestyle without being pushed.

He has already qualified for the NCS meet.

“The coaches said for this meet, ‘Don’t knock yourself out. Do as much as you can,’” he said. “I want to go faster tomorrow. Today is kind of a tuneup. I want to swim well for the team.”

A faster time Saturday will help Mertz and others with NCS seeding and lane assignments. Mertz is heading to USC to swim.

Carrillo’s Taylor Scobey said she also plans to turn on the speed Saturday. She bested her seed time by one second, 2:13.87, in the 200 individual medley Friday.

“The back is my worst stroke, so I pushed the hardest in that,” she said. “Tomorrow I’ll go harder on everything.”

Connor Wong of Windsor came into the meet with a seed time of 1:57.20 in the 200-yard IM, nearly 17 seconds faster than the next entrant. He didn’t disappoint, topping his heat in 2:02.12.

He helped the Jaguars boys to a 3-2 record in dual meets this year.

His coach and mother, Kelli Wong, said both her boys and girls teams are much improved this year.

“The season’s been fabulous,” she said. “Last year, we struggled. But this year we’ve really been stepping up.”

Unlike Santa Rosa and Carrillo, Windsor has no school pool, so the Jags travel to Healdsburg to practice.

Carrillo coach Niles expects about half-a-dozen Pumas to qualify for NCS after this weekend. Another 10 or 12 likely will come from Santa Rosa High.

“The real drama happens tomorrow,” Niles said Friday. “Most people make their NCS times at this meet.

“With the dual meets, nobody is rested. But before this, everyone gets a taper. They’re more rested, so usually they swim better.”

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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