Swimmer from Saugus had a remarkable prep career and seems on the same path as other previous top California girls swimmers who’ve been State Athlete of the Year. Two other aquatics standouts – Katie McLaughlin of Santa Margarita and MaKenzie Fisher of Laguna Beach – also were strongly considered along with Rancho Buena Vista’s Alyssa LaFrancis, the state’s first four-time CIF state girls wrestling champ.
For the rundown on the other 2014-15 State Girls Athletes of the Year, CLICK HERE.
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By Erik Boal
In a talent-laden Santa Clarita Valley that has produced professional athletes in football, golf, baseball and basketball, in addition to Olympic gold medalists in softball as well as track and field, it is a swimmer making historic waves this year.
For the first time in either gender, Cal-Hi Sports is recognizing a Foothill League standout with one of its most prestigious awards with the selection this week of Saugus High star Abbey Weitzeil as State Girls Athlete of the Year.
Not even the great Anthony Ervin, a 1999 Hart of Newhall graduate and 2000 Olympic swimming gold medalist, earned the state’s top male honor during his career. Weitzeil’s selection comes following a high school career that included an American record and concluded as the fastest sprint freestyle swimmer in U.S. prep history.
“It’s a great honor. To go from where I was to the Junior National team was a big step for me and then obviously it was an even bigger step going from Junior National team to the U.S. National team,” Weitzeil said. “Being around all these experienced people is really exciting. It’s a big step, but I’m really excited about it. I just need to continue to work hard and focus on the things that are my weaknesses, so I can continue to improve. I just need to relax and have fun and focus on what I know I can do.”
Weitzeil, 18, and the 34-year-old Ervin are both U.S. national team members preparing for the FINA World Championships, which began Sunday in Kazan, Russia.
Also joining Weitzeil in Russia as U.S. teammates are former Carondelet of Concord star Chelsea Chenault (2012-13) and Long Beach Wilson graduate (2004-05) Jessica Hardy, the last two swimmers to be selected State Girls Athlete of the Year.
Santa Margarita standout Katie McLaughlin, the national high school record holder in the 100-yard butterfly and also strongly considered for the State AOY honor, is also on the U.S. roster.
Weitzeil and McLaughlin have both signed with Cal, but Weitzeil is deferring her enrollment until the fall of 2016 to remain close to home in order to train with personal coach Coley Stickels for next year’s U.S. Olympic Trials.
Weitzeil captured a silver medal earlier this month in the 100-meter freestyle and helped the U.S. win gold in the 400 freestyle relay and bronze in the 400 medley relay at the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea.
It was the third consecutive international meet at which Weitzeil secured a medal in preparation for Russia, along with a silver in the 400 freestyle relay in August at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia and three relay medals at the FINA Short Course World Championships in December in Qatar.
Although Weitzeil didn’t compete at the inaugural CIF state championships in May in Clovis, she left an incredible legacy at the CIF Southern Section Division I finals in Riverside, concluding her career with eight individual titles.
Weitzeil began by lowering her own national high school record in the 50-yard freestyle to 21.64 seconds, then did so twice in the 100-yard freestyle, first by clocking 47.33 to capture the individual title, then leading off Saugus’ 400 freestyle relay in 47.09 in her final swim for the Centurions.
In her last nine freestyle swims at the section championship meet in 2014 and 2015, Weitzeil either set or eclipsed national high school records.
But her most impressive performances came in December after returning home from Qatar at the Speedo Junior National Championships in Federal Way, Wash. Weitzeil set the American record in the 100-yard freestyle by clocking 46.29, lowering Simone Manuel’s standard of 46.62 from November.
Manuel, entering her sophomore year at Stanford, regained the record by clocking 46.09 at the NCAA Division I championships in March, but Weitzeil’s time remains the No. 2 mark in American history.
Weitzeil also produced a personal-best 21.49 in the 50-yard freestyle, which ranks No. 5 all-time in American history. Since long-course events are held in international competitions, Weitzeil’s best marks in the 50-meter freestyle (24.80) and 100-meter freestyle (54.38) both rank among the top 20 in U.S. history.
“To be honest, I am still a newbie to swimming. I have only been swimming competitively for five or six years,” Weitzeil told USA Swimming about her rise to being one of the country’s top young stars. “The first Olympics I watched in swimming was 2008. I just wasn’t into swimming at all. I didn’t really know what it was like or about.
“I started swimming and I didn’t like it, then I got back into it and realized the great things about it, and as I worked harder, I enjoyed it more and things started happening.”
Like making history as the first individual from the Santa Clarita Valley to be selected State Athlete of the Year.
ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
GIRLS STATE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2014-15 – Abbey Weitzeil, Saugus (swimming)
2013-14 – Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (gymnastics)
2012-13 – Chelsea Chenault, Concord Carondelet (swimming)
2011-12 – Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (gymnastics)
2010-11 – Maggie Steffens, Danville Monte Vista (water polo)
2009-10 – Ashton Purvis, Oakland St. Elizabeth (track)
2008-09 – Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track)
2007-08 – Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track) Jr.
2006-07 – Alix Klineman, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (volleyball)
2005-06 – Jayne Appel, Concord Carondelet (water polo, basketball)
2004-05 – Jessica Hardy, Long Beach Wilson (swimming)
2003-04 – Candice Wiggins, La Jolla Country Day (volleyball, basketball)
2002-03 – Alyson Felix, North Hills L.A. Baptist (track)
2001-02 – Julia Pitts, Torrance North (volleyball, basketball, track)
2000-01 – Lashinda Demus, Long Beach Wilson (track)
1999-00 – Monique Henderson, San Diego Morse (track) Jr.
1998-99 – Rometra Craig, San Jose Mitty (basketball, tae kwon do, track) Jr.
1997-98 – Amanda Freed, Garden Grove Pacifica (volleyball, soccer, baseball)
1996-97 – Tayyiba Haneef, Laguna Hills (volleyball, basketball, track)
1995-96 – Kerri Walsh, San Jose Mitty (volleyball, basketball)
1994-95 – Marcy Crouch, Huntington Beach Marina (soccer, softball)
1993-94 – Suzy Powell, Modesto Downey (basketball, track)
1992-93 – Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track)
1991-92 – Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track) Jr.
1990-91 – Marion Jones, Oxnard Rio Mesa (basketball, track) Soph.
1989-90 – Lisa Leslie, Inglewood Morningside (basketball, track)
1988-89 – Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming)
1987-88 – Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming) Jr.
1986-87 – Michele Granger, Placentia Valencia (softball)
1985-86 – Terri Mann, San Diego Point Loma (basketball, track)
1984-85 – Elaina Oden, Irvine (volleyball, track)
1983-84 – Wendy Brown, Woodside (basketball, track)
1982-83 – Wendy Wyland, Mission Viejo (diving)
1981-82 – Denean Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)
1980-81 – Cheryl Miller, Riverside Polytechnic (basketball)
1979-80 – Sherri Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)
1978-79 – Cynthia Woodhead, Riverside Polytechnic (swimming)
1977-78 – Tracy Austin, Rolling Hills (tennis)
1976-77 – Linda Fratianne, Van Nuys Valley Professional (figure skating)
1975-76 – Jill Sterkel, Hacienda Heights Wilson (swimming)
1974-75 – Barbara Reinalda, Cerritos Valley Christian (basketball, softball)
1973-74 – Mary Decker, Orange (track)
1972-73 – Keena Rothhammer, Santa Clara (swimming)
1971-72 – Mable Fergerson, Pomona Ganesha (track)
1970-71 – Laura Baugh, Long Beach Wilson (golf)
1969-70 – Cathy Rigby, Los Alamitos (gymnastics)
1968-69 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1967-68 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1966-67 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1965-66 – Charlotte Cooke, Compton (track)
1964-65 – Peggy Fleming, Pasadena (figure skating)
1963-64 – Sharon Stouder, Glendora (swimming)
1962-63 – Donna de Varona, Santa Clara (swimming)
1961-62 – Carolyn House, Los Angeles Marshall (swimming)
1960-61 – Billie Jean Moffitt, Long Beach Poly (tennis)
1959-60 – Chris von Saltza, Los Gatos (swimming)
1958-59 – Karen Hantze, San Diego Mission Bay (tennis)
1957-58 – Sylvia Ruuska, Berkeley (swimming)
1956-57 – Barbara Ann Roles, Arcadia (figure skating)
1955-56 – Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)
1954-55 – Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)
1953-54 – Carol Tait, Atherton Menlo-Atherton (swimming)
1952-53 – Barbara Stark, Lafayette Acalanes (swimming)
1951-52 – Paula Jean Myers, Covina (diving)
1950-51 – Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)
1949-50 – Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)
1948-49 – Marlene Bauer, L.A. unknown (golf)
1947-48 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1946-47 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1945-46 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1944-45 – Nancy Chaffee, Ventura (tennis)
1943-44 – Jean Doyle, San Diego Point Loma (tennis)
1942-43 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1941-42 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1940-41 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1939-40 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1938-39 – Esther Williams, L.A. Washington (swimming)
1937-38 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1936-37 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1935-36 – Peggy Graham, Beverly Hills (golf)
1934-35 – Margaret Osborne, S.F. Commerce (tennis)
1933-34 – Florence Chadwick, San Diego Hoover (rough water swimming)
1932-33 – Dorothy Poynton, L.A. Fairfax (diving)
1931-32 – Evelyn Furtsch, Tustin (track)
1930-31 – Alice Marble, S.F. Polytechnic (tennis)
1929-30 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1928-29 – Gloria Russell, Berkeley (track)
1927-28 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1926-27 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1925-26 – Helen Jacobs, Berkeley Miss Anna Head’s School (tennis)
1924-25 – Eleanor Garatti, San Rafael (swimming)
1923-24 – Helen Jacobs, Berkeley (tennis)
1922-23 – Helen Wills, Berkeley Miss Anna Head’s School (tennis)
1921-22 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
1920-21 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
1919-20 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
Note: All selections prior to 1978-79 done retroactively through research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.
Erik Boal is the former prep editor at the Los Angeles Daily News and now serves as California editor for track and cross country for DyeStatCal. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports