2012-03-29 / Sports

La Reina swimmers hit the jets

Underclassmen Yu, Chopp propel Regents in pool
By Eliav Appelbaum


FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT—Freshman Abby Chopp, left, and sophomore Melissa Yu are standout competitors for the La Reina swim squad. Both excel in multiple events, particularly the backstroke. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT—Freshman Abby Chopp, left, and sophomore Melissa Yu are standout competitors for the La Reina swim squad. Both excel in multiple events, particularly the backstroke. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers Besides starring for the La Reina High swim team, Melissa Yu and Abby Chopp have a lot in common.

Both Regents excel in the backstroke. Both swimmers are excellent students. Both girls volunteer with the National Charity League, a mother-daughter philanthropic organization.

And neither can legally drive.

Yu and Chopp, who have raced against each other in club meets, are integral members of a La Reina swim squad that will compete for a Tri-Valley League crown.

Yu is a versatile studentathlete.

A specialist in the 100-yard backstroke, Yu also stars in the 200 freestyle, the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay.

Her career-best time in the 100 backstroke is 1 minute, 1.1 seconds. The sophomore’s completed the 200 freestyle in 2:03.

Yu, 15, started swimming at age 9 to boost her water polo game. She never really got involved with water polo, and instead splashed head first into swimming.

“When I get in the water it makes me so happy,” Yu said. “It’s the one sport that I actually love that I tried.”

Perfecting intricate details of the backstroke is the key to success, she said.

“The little things can make a big difference,” Yu said. “In the backstroke, every little thing counts. I find that challenging.”

Yu reached the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 preliminaries in the 100 backstroke in 2011.

This season Yu hopes to propel herself into a top-10 finish at the section finals in the event while breaking 58 seconds.

“I have to work on my technique,” the sophomore said. “I have to work on my flips turns. I have to work on my underwaters and get more yardage.”

Yu takes school and swimming seriously.

She has a 4.8 grade-point average while balancing honors courses in Spanish, algebra/ trigonometry, English, European history and chemistry.

A singer in the Los Robles Children’s Choir for six years, Yu has two siblings: Katie, a senior at Thacher in Ojai; and Daniel, a University of Chicago freshman.

There’s no need to motivate Yu to excel in the classroom or pool.

“I’m trying my best to be a scholar athlete,” she said.

Chopp is a freshman on the rise.

Entering this week’s Ventura County Championships, Chopp had only two high school meets under her belt.

The lone freshman on the varsity squad helped the Regents take third place among 16 teams at the Villanova Invitational.

La Reina also beat Villanova in a dual meet.

“It’s a lot more laid back (than club),” Chopp said. “Everyone on the team’s really nice.”

Participating in relays has been a refreshing change.

“It’s more fun,” the 14-year-old said. “Everyone’s always cheering for you at high school (meets). That doesn’t happen at club meets.”

Chopp has completed the 100 backstroke in one minute flat. She’s also a standout in the 100 breaststroke (1:13) and 200 individual medley (2:21), in addition to lending a hand in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.

Chopp said maintaining a strong kick throughout the race is a key element to winning the backstroke.

The daughter of Kim and Steve, Chopp has a 12-year-old brother, Matthew.

Chopp’s already made a strong impression on third-year head coach Kathie Duncan.

“She’s a little girl with a big heart,” Duncan said.

REGENTS MAKE WAVES

A strong senior class leads La Reina in the water.

Hailey Barab (100 breaststroke), Annie Mackenzie (100, 200 and 500 freestyles) and Maddie Lynch (butterfly, IM, breaststroke) are senior captains.

Ellie Grubaugh (50 and 100 freestyles), Jillian Walke (50 freestyle), Olivia Vigna (breaststroke) and Hailey Costigan are seniors.

Junior Bess Grode (200 IM and 100 butterfly), sophomore Madison Brooks ( freestyle), sophomore Maddie Sickle (distance freestyle) also stand out.

“We’d love to win league,” said Duncan, who has coached swimming for more than 35 years.

“They’re a wonderful group to work with. It’s a really good, cohesive group. They cheer one another on and are trying to work together.”

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