by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview swimmer Tiffany Huang took second place in the 100 butterfly against Lincoln on Thursday.

Trying to catch Westview girls’ swimming star Tiffany Zhao in the pool is an uphill task, one that teammate Mariana Garcia compares to competing against a certain decorated Olympic star.

As Garcia climbed out of the water at the Sunset swimming center on Thursday following her 200 individual medley race with Zhao and a couple of Lincoln Cardinals, the Wildcats could only shake her head in admiration of her Westview colleague.

“It’s like racing Michael Phelps,” said Garcia of Zhao. “She’s crazy fast. You just try and sprint and try to keep up.”

Zhao won the 200 IM (2:20) and 100 breaststroke (1:10) with relative ease over Lincoln, making each race look like a stroll through the park on a Sunday afternoon. The meet was a sweet escape for the two-time state returnee who, like all the Wildcat swimmers, had to deal with fall term finals in the week leading up to the competition.

“It was nice to come to a meet to just relax and have fun,” said Zhao. “It was great to blow off all that stress. It’s relaxing, and it’s fun because you cheer on your teammates and get that team bonding going on.”

Recently, Zhao’s been working on specific parts of her four strokes in the 200 IM, so when championship season comes around, the foursome of motions will be engrained as good habits. Zhao said the butterfly is her “worst” stroke, but the Wildcat was able to build a big lead against Lincoln because of the ‘fly and was able to win the IM by more than seven seconds.

“My coach really wants me to work on my weaknesses,” said Zhao. “That way I can bring my overall swimming level up. Today, it felt pretty good.”

Zhao’s best race is the 100 breast, one in which she placed third at the 6A state championships last year and won again by four seconds on Thursday.

“I’m trying to improve different parts of the stroke,” said Zhao. “Then, by the end of the season hopefully I can bring it all together and put out a good race.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview junior girls swimmer Tiffany Zhao won the 200 individual medley and the 100 breastroke against Lincoln on Thursday. Zhao also helped the Wildcat relay teams take first as well.

Sophia Zhou said she was impressed with Westview’s team times, taking into consideration the Wildcats aren’t in taper mode yet and are still building endurance in practice. Westview lost just 88-82 to the Cardinals. Tiffany Huang placed second in the 100 fly (1:06.32) and swam the butterfly leg of the 200 IM relay.

Zhou—one of Westview’s top sprinter who also swims the freestyle portions of the Wildcats’ 200 IM and 400 free relays — took first in the 100 free (57.43) and third in the 50 free (26.96). The junior’s formed a race strategy based on controlling on her speed and knowing when is the right time to punch the pedal to the floor and go.

“In the 100 I don’t want to dig a hole in the first part of the race,” said Zhou. “I have to work on not going too easy in the first 50 and making sure I build on the second 50. I want to finish the race strong.”

The best times for a sprinter, Zhou says, materialize during “taper time” at the end of the season when Westview cuts down on the practice mileage in the pool.

Rest and relaxation grow into precious shaved milliseconds around districts, when state meet berths hang in the balance.

Laila Kayfes beat Zhou in the 50 free, winning the event in 25.93 while taking second in the 200 free (2:04) and helping the 200 IM and 400 free relays take first.

“I give it my best effort every day and I listen to my coach,” said Kayfes. “I just wanted to sprint and have good times. I think I accomplished that today.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview freshman Laila Kayffes won the 50 free and was second in the 200 free for the Wildcats who beat Lincoln on Thursday.

As a short distance competitor who’s already one of the Metro League’s fastest sprinters in her first year of high school swimming, Kayfes said she zeroes in on her arm tempo speed, leg strength and exertion during a race.

Kayfes has triumphed in a number of 50 free races so far in the Metro season and said the early success has boosted her confidence as an underclassman.

“I’m not used to winning normally,” said Kayfes. “I’m on a club team, so now it’s different winning at high school meets. But, it’s fun competition because you have people who are at the same speed and it’s still a competitive race.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview swimming sprinter Sophia Zhou won the 100 free was a key cog on the Wildcats winning relay teams versus Lincoln on Thursday.

One of the big goals for the Westview girls’ team is to send their 200 free relay of Zhou, Zhao, Kayfes, and Huang to state and make it to the finals. Versus Lincoln, the Wildcats (1:56.29) clawed past the Cardinals (1:56.53) and touched the wall just in the nick of time for the win.

“We really want to do well in the relays because it’s always fun to go to a big meet as a team,” said Zhou. “We always try to have good exchanges and cheer each other on.”

“It’s just all out, go as hard as you can,” added Zhao. “We have great team chemistry on our relays. Everyone’s so nice and supportive of each other.”

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