Acorns are strong despite small numbers

Acorns junior Karinne Leong looks to qualify for the CCS Meet in the backstroke for the third straight year. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Karinne Leong did something last summer she hadn’t ever done since she started swimming—she took a break from the sport. It was a much needed respite considering Leong has been grinding away in the sport for close to 14 years. 

“It was the first break I’ve had,” the Live Oak High junior said. “It was really weird, but kind of good. I got to rest a lot more than usual, and it’s hard to swim long and hard year after year. But the break was nice because I’m still passionate about swimming.”

Leong and senior Colin Edgar are two of the top returners for a Live Oak swimming team that is smaller in numbers in years past but enjoying their experience together. 

“Because the team is smaller we’re bonding a bit more,” said Edgar, who competed in four events in a league dual meet with Yerba Buena on March 13. “I’ve enjoyed all four years here playing water polo and swimming.”

A standout water polo player, Edgar hopes his senior swim season will culminate in his first appearance in the Central Coast Section Championships in six weeks. In comparison to the competition, Edgar’s best event is the 100 butterfly. His other main individual event is the 500 free. 

“(The butterfly is) probably my fastest event, but not my favorite,” he said. “It makes me pretty sore because it’s hard to work my muscles and get them in the right pattern.”

Edgar has a personal-record (PR) of 55.2 seconds in the 100 fly, and he’ll need to cut that mark down to 54.99 to qualify for CCS. Edgar had a top-three finish in the 100 fly in last year’s Blossom Valley League Finals. When it comes to the 500 free—the marathon distance in high school swimming at 20 laps—Edgar tries to keep a simple tried and true approach. 

“I tell myself I need to pace it a little bit and not sprint it all out until the last 100,” he said. 

Leong, who competed in the 100 backstroke, 500 free and 200- and 400-free relay events against Yerba Buena, qualified for the CCS Championships in her freshman and sophomore seasons in the 100 backstroke. Leong would like to go sub-1 minute in the 100 back—her PR is 1:01—and hover around the 55-second mark in the 100 free. Leong always has a goal to improve, so she thinks and works on refining her technique, knowing it’ll lead to faster times. 

“Technically, I think I need to move my arms faster,” she said. “So I need to start using paddles and buoys to see if I can get faster with my arms and get stronger because they’re kind of weak.”

Leong suffered a dislocated left knee a week before school started, which sidelined her from intense athletic activities for two to three months. It was a melancholic time for Leong, who had never been taken out of competition for an extended period of time due to injury. 

“It was not fun,” she said. “I had doubts and was really scared not knowing if I could back to how fast I was. I knew it wasn’t going to happen real easily, and I got really unmotivated. But I think now I’m a lot better (mentally and physically). I wouldn’t say the knee is 100 percent because it still kind of clicks (makes a noise), but it’s fine because I can swim on it.”

Leong produced straight A’s last semester, a notable achievement because she’s taking five Advanced Placement classes this school year. Leong still remains close with her older brother, Kai, who was a Live Oak standout swimmer and is now at UC Berkeley. Karinne has replaced Kai as the president of Live Oak High’s Future Business Leaders of America club. 

“I talk to him as much as I can,” she said. “I ask him for a lot of advice for homework, and he still inspires me because he is so positive about everything, so I always ask him to help me get better at that. I also ask for advice on how to run the club, and I try to be as good of a leader as he was.”

In the dual meet with Yerba Buena, Leong won the 100 back in 1:07.79 and the 500 free in 6:15.18. She also was a part of the victorious 200 free relay team that included Melanie Klem, Lauren Nishikawa and Madelyn Sedghyar, who finished in 2:03.04. Nishikawa, a junior, won the 200 free in 2:29.39, and fellow junior Sedghyar was victorious in the 200 IM in 2:45.53 and the 100 breast stroke in 1:23.37. 

Klem, a sophomore, won the 50 free in 29.89 and the 100 free in 1:10.84. On the boys side, Edgar won the 200 free in 1:58.70 and the 100 fly in 59.38, well ahead of the second-place finisher. He also teamed up with Ethan Caspillo, Max Klein and Rhett Thorson to win the 400 free relay in 3:47.25. The same four athletes won the 200 free relay in 1:41.64. Klein, a senior, won the 200 IM in 2:24.61 and the 100 free in 56.85. 

Thorson, a junior, displayed tremendous versatility as he swam the shortest and longest events in high school swimming. Thorson won the 50 free in 24.74 and the 500 free in 5:49.85. 

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