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CdM's Karas puts on a show

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Sea Kings junior is second in individual medley at CIF finals, but was part of amazing race that few will forget.

May 18, 2013|By Matt Szabo
(SCOTT SMELTZER…)

Top swims in high school swimming do not happen in a vacuum.

Take away University High junior Corey Okubo, and CdM junior Liam Karas would currently be the Orange County record-holder in the 200-yard individual medley.

Of course, take away Okubo and you'd rob swimmers, coaches and fans of perhaps the most exciting race at last weekend's CIF Southern Section Division 1 finals. Okubo and Karas, the two Aquazot club swimmers, put on quite a show.

Okubo had set the county record in the event with a 1:48.02 at Pacific Coast League finals. The previous county record was a 1:48.83 by Sonora's Darren Ward in 1987.

Karas swam a 1:51.24 at PCL finals, good for second place. Okubo was the heavy favorite going into CIF finals, and deservedly so.

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The Uni swimmer built up a sizable lead of nearly a second after the butterfly and the backstroke. But wait, who was this guy coming on strong in the breaststroke?

That guy was Karas, who actually led by seven-hundredths of a second heading into the freestyle leg. Okubo edged out the race in 1:47.07, but Karas also finished well below the previous county record in a school-record time of 1:47.33.

CdM Coach Barry O'Dea called it one of the most exciting races he's ever seen in high school swimming. Karas, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, called it probably the best race he's ever swam.

"I knew that he has a very strong front half," Karas said. "Mine's OK compared to his, but his backstroke is just so fast. I tried to keep up with him on the fly. I knew he was going to beat me in the backstroke, but the breaststroke is what I've been working on a lot. That's where I planned to catch up, and I did. The free was whoever had the most left in the tank."

Karas still had plenty in the tank at CIF finals. He went on to finish third in the 100 free in a lifetime-best 45.76, part of a three-four-five finish for CdM with seniors Christian Garkani and Blake Motal.

He was also on the second-place 200 free relay team, and he swam leadoff on the second-place 400 free relay team. The latter team, also including Jack Harryman, Tyler Lin and Richie Barden, touched in another school record of 3:05.53.

Karas' versatility helped CdM finish second in Division 1 for the second straight year. Not bad for the junior, but nothing new. He has been swimming competitively since the third grade, when he was shown the Aquazot club team by current CdM swimmers Justin and Tim Hanson.

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