Flintridge Sacred Heart wants another league title

ARCHIVE PHOTO: FSHA's Kirsten Vose participates in the individual medley during a swim meet L.A. Valley College pool in Van Nuys on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Staff Photographer / May 1, 2012)

After bringing an outright Mission League title back to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy for the first time in five years in 2012, the Tologs swimming team will look to keep it locked up this season.

“We obviously had a great season last year, winning the Mission League championship is always our goal,” Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Steve Bergen said. “That’s certainly first and foremost this year. ... Now, this year we have a target on our back and everyone is going to be gunning for us as the reigning league champions.”

The Tologs, who finished 5-0 in league last year, certainly have some talented swimmers leading the charge, highlighted by returning sophomore Kirsten Vose, junior Katie Altmayer and senior Emily Balog. Sacred Heart will also get a big boost from Bergen’s highly touted freshman Kate Herrill.

Even with all the returners, Bergen admitted league will be a big challenge, as always.

“We're not as deep as we were,” he said. “We still have our top-end talent, but we had six seniors last year. None made CIF, but they made us really hard to beat in dual meets. We're a little more vulnerable in duals.”

Sacred Heart’s goals extend outside of league, though, after a 14th-place in CIF Southern Section Division I a year ago. The Tologs should get a boost in CIF and throughout the year from diver Caroline Bender, who advanced to CIF last season.

“At CIF, we'd love to be top 10,” Bergen said. “The Orange County teams we swim against come at you in waves. We're not ready to compete for a CIF title yet.”

It will be a tough task for La Cañada High to improve on its 20th-place finish in Division I from last year after losing standout endurance and sprinter Katy Campbell and Sarah Olson, respectively. Campbell was a two-time All-Area Girls’ Swimmer of the Year and Valley Sun Girls’ Athlete of the Year.

The Spartans will also have their third new coach in as many years, albeit a very familiar face, as longtime boys’ coach Art Lopez takes over both squads this year.

“We are really looking at rebuilding the program this year,” Lopez said, “I think within a couple of years we’ll be a dominant force back in the league.”

La Cañada saw its four-year stretch of earning at least a share of the Rio Hondo League title end in 2012 with South Pasadena taking the crown. This year figures to another three-team race with San Marino High also serving as a strong contender.

“Hopefully, this year we can pull off a league victory; we have an outside chance of winning league,” Lopez said. “There is a chance of that, even though we don’t have the power of Sarah and Katy this year.”

The Spartans return a number of key swimmers in junior Samantha Campbell (100 backstroke, 500 freestyle and relays) — Katy’s sister — sophomore Rachel Wong, a group of three seniors headlined by Caitlyn Seto and several promising underclassmen.

“We’ve got a lot of young talent and I think that young talent means good things down the line,” Lopez said.

Following a fourth-place finish in the Prep League a year ago, Flintridge Prep is taking an individual approach to this season with several swimmers expecting to compete at CIF.

Rebels Coach Ryan Goto said he expects Jennifer Langen and Lauren Au, a junior and sophomore, respectively, to lead his team this year.

“We really want to focus on individual goals: getting times down, getting those personal records and making sure their strokes are refined,” Goto said. “I am confident the majority of the team will make CIF times this year.”