IRVINE — Corona del Mar High junior swimmer Meagan Popp surged to the finish line from Lane 2, passing at least a couple of opponents on the way.
Popp was swimming in an "off" event, the 100-yard backstroke, at Friday's Pacific Coast League finals. That didn't stop her from coming back for a stunning victory in that event after a Beckman swimmer was disqualified, leaving CdM girls' swim coach Doug Volding repeating Popp's first name in amazement after looking at the scoreboard.
"That's amazing," Volding said after Popp touched in a first-place time of 58.45 seconds. "That's the shock of the meet for me."
Late in the meet, it was a shot in the arm that CdM needed. Volding was less shocked, but equally thrilled, at the team results.
The CdM girls finished strong at Woollett Aquatics Center to capture their first PCL title since 2006, edging out second-place Irvine and the defending champion, third-place University. CdM had 425.5 points, followed by the Vaqueros with 403 points and Uni with 367.
The University boys were too strong, finishing with 612 points to claim their third straight league title. CdM was in third place with 341 points, also behind Northwood (360).
It was a breakthrough meet for the CdM girls, who last week also beat University in a dual meet for the first time in eight years. Popp and UNLV-bound senior Stephanie Samudro, who each won two events and were on two winning relays at league finals, shared the girls' swimmer of the meet honor with Emily Jiang of Irvine.
"This is a very, very meaningful win for me, for the coaches, for the kids," Volding said. "Like I've said all year, it was a combination of the club girls and the water polo girls working together ... In this league, there's great coaches that have won CIF titles over and over. It just takes everything coming together to win a league title."
Popp also captured the 500 freestyle, in 4:53.16. Samudro won the 100 fly in 55.59 seconds and also captured the breaststroke in 1:03.46.
They also teamed with sophomore Maddie Musselman and freshman Nicole Lin to win the 200 medley relay (1:47.93) and the 400 free relay (3:35.80). Both were season-best times.
"I'm pretty excited," Samudro said. "We all put our best effort into today."
Musselman was second in the 200 freestyle in a personal-best 1:59.44, and she also tied for third in the 50 free. Lin said she also swam her best times to finish third in both the 200 individual medley (2:10.73) and 100 breast (1:06.20), earning her CIF automatic time in the latter event.
CdM also got strong swims from people like USC-bound senior water polo player Marina Coskinas, who was out-touched in the consolation final of the 500 free but finished in 5:35.91. And sophomore Bridgett Storm was sixth in the 200 free (2:01.16). Junior Eliza Britt won the consolation final in that race.
Princeton-bound senior Liam Karas paced the CdM boys. Like Popp, he also fared well in an off event. He set a meet record in the 200 free (1:39.54), then came back to also win the 100 free in 46.07 seconds.
"[The 200 free] was a really good race for me," Karas said. "My best time before that was a 1:40.9, so dropping over a second was a great feeling."
Karas said he plans to swim the 200 IM and 100 free at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 meet, which has preliminaries scheduled Thursday and finals May 17 at Riverside City College. The IM would be a rematch of a memorable CIF finals race last year between Karas and University senior Corey Okubo, another versatile swimmer who also is Princeton-bound.
Okubo, who broke his own meet records to win the 200 IM and 100 fly at league finals, was the boys' swimmer of the meet Friday.
"I think we might see another epic 200 IM race," CdM boys' Coach Barry O'Dea said. "It would actually be a really cool thing to see them draw [events] out of a hat and go head-to-head. That would have been kind of fun, just for the heck of it."
CdM junior Tyler Lin also was very fast. Lin set a meet record in the 100 breast, touching in 56.20. The mark broke former CdM swimmer Michael Liao's record from 2010.
Lin also was fourth in the 200 IM, in 1:50.62.
CdM's Justin Hanson was second in the 100 fly, behind Okubo, and Tim Hanson was fourth in the 500 free.
O'Dea said other standout swims included Foster Hoose, who dropped 13 seconds in the 500 free. JR Santoro dropped nearly 10 seconds in the same event. Jon Polos dropped his butterfly time and earned a CIF consideration time in the 50 free, as did Ashton Jajonie.