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Connors breaks out for Mesa

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Junior swimmer breaks school record in 100 backstroke in 55.43 and wins Orange Coast League title.

May 11, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(KEVIN CHANG / Daily…)

It was a race Tyler Connors looked forward to all last week, the 100-yard backstroke at the Orange Coast League boys' finals. It pitted him against the league's top swimmer in the event, or so he thought.

The day before the meet at Costa Mesa High, Connors didn't see the name he expected to be on the race sheet. The swimmer, Laguna Beach's Erik Juliusson, decided to skip the 100 backstroke and compete in two other individual events.

So, the one swimmer that could push Connors in his best event wasn't going to be in the finals. With Juliusson out, Connors became the league favorite. And he didn't disappoint.

The junior won the 100 backstroke, setting a personal-best time of 55.43 seconds and breaking the Costa Mesa school record.

The previous mark of 55.70, held by Brad Prickett, stood for 30 years. If there was one swimmer to top it, Coach Justin Taylor is happy Connors pulled it off.

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Connors has come a long way since he was a freshman. Taylor remembers how Connors first showed up to the pool.

"He was gangly and awkward," Taylor said. "I was like, 'Really? OK. Hopefully he grows into his body soon.'"

Through hard work, Connors has developed into one of the top swimmers in the area. He's almost 6 feet tall, having grown four inches since he first swam for Taylor.

Taylor used to be taller than Connors. Taylor now looks up to Connors. Many swimmers do as well, after they get out of the pool to check their times. Connors usually has most of them beat.

Connors finished fifth in the 100 backstroke at the CIF Southern Section Division 3 championships at Riverside City College on Thursday. His 55.57 mark wasn't his fastest, but the top-five result is what he set out to achieve before the season.

He also placed seventh in the 200 individual medley, finishing in 2:02.27. The finishes at the section finals are his best in the 100 backstroke and 200 IM, which he took seventh and ninth, respectively, last season.

His times keep improving in both events. Compared to his marks from last season's section finals, Connors shaved off more than a second in the 100 backstroke and more than three seconds in the 200 IM this year.

Taylor credits Connors' work ethic and attitude for his success.

"He is the hardest working athlete I've ever come across in my seven years of coaching," said Taylor, adding that Connors earned the Costa Mesa Kiwanis Athlete of the Month award. "He shows up and says, 'Yes, coach.' He wants to get better."

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