NCS high school champs


DiRado wins 200 IM, 4th in 100 free

Yamauchi third in 20 IM, sixth in 100 breast; Hannis breaks Empire mark finishes 4th in 100 breast

Published: Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 5:18 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 9:28 a.m.

CONCORD -- A student with 4.5 GPA, Maria Carrillo sophomore Maya DiRado has a capacity to absorb reams of information in the classroom.

On the pool deck, however, DiRado possesses a much different, but similarly useful trait: the ability to think about absolutely nothing.

DiRado, a 15-year-old at ease in the spotlight, delivered another clutch performance to win the 200-yard individual medley at the North Coast Section Championships on Saturday at Concord Community Pool.

A runner-up in the event to Montgomery’s Penelope Yamauchi as a freshman, DiRado claimed her third Empire record by winning in 2:00.54. Yamauchi, a senior who has signed with Arizona State, finished third in 2:02.52.

DiRado’s title was the highlight of a day in which four Empire swimmers had top-five finishes and Santa Rosa sophomore Molly Hannis broke the Empire record en route to a fourth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke, an event in which she will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer.

For many elite young swimmers, the high school season provides little competition or excitement. But the NCS Championships -- a talent-stuffed meet where record-holders include legends such as Natalie Coughlin -- create a buzz.

Maria Carrillo coach Kara Myers says a bigger stage never seems to faze DiRado, an Olympic Trials qualifier in three events whose talent could be matched by her preparation.

"She definitely gets herself in a zone," Myers said. "You could see her right behind the blocks today. She was smiling and she was aware of what was going on, but you could see her thinking about her swim. She can really narrow things down. She doesn’t think about it all day long, so she isn’t stressed out. She does a great job of focusing at the right time."

Explained DiRado, who also finished fourth in the 100 freestyle in the second-fastest time in Empire history: "I try to clear my mind so it’s totally blank. Then if I get bored when I swim, I just start counting my strokes."

DiRado’s performance in the 200 IM foiled Yamauchi’s pursuit of a second NCS title. Yamauchi finished her high school career as the only Empire swimmer to achieve automatic NCS qualifying times in every individual event.

In the 200 IM, Yamauchi narrowly trailed DiRado at the halfway point with the breaststroke -- her best stroke -- coming up. But DiRado held off her furious charge.

"I saw her being a little bit ahead and I was thinking ’I’m going to go for her. I’m going to go for her,’ " said Yamauchi, who also placed sixth in the 100 breaststroke. "But it just didn’t happen."

Hannis entered with dreams of winning the 100 breaststroke -- despite the presence of Ca-rondelet sophomore Kasey Carlson in the field. Carlson posted an NCS record of 1:01.97 in the event last year as a freshman and continued her domination this weekend. She lowered her NCS record to 59.94, less than a second off the national high school mark, at Friday’s trials. She won in 1:01.14 in the finals.

Hannis finished in 1:03.27, breaking the Empire record of 1:03.41 held by Yamauchi. Hannis also finished seventh in the 200 IM after finishing 16th last year.

Analy junior Max Horrell qualified for two finals -- finishing third in the 100 butterfly and sixth in the 100 backstroke. Horrell, who began swimming at the relatively late age of 11, also placed third in the 100 fly at NCS as a sophomore.

His third-place finish of 50.14 was significantly lower on Saturday -- he shaved more than a second off last year’s time. But he finished narrowly behind Northgate’s Josh Cannon (50.13) and St. Mary’s Piankhi Gibson (49.96). Horrell ranks second in Empire history in the event.

Rancho Cotate senior Daniel Gossage finished sixth in the 100 fly, and St. Vincent junior Alison Blom was seventh in the 100 fly in 57.20, the fifth-fastest time in Empire history.