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Pasadena City College Freshman Melissa Cienega Does It Again, 2 Comebacks For 2 Women’s State Titles

Lancer freshman Melissa Cienega won two state titles and was second in a third event at the CCCAA State Championships May 4-6 at East Los Angeles College. She is in action here in Saturday’s gold medal swim in the 1,650-yard freestyle, photo by Richard Quinton. In the two longest distance races in swimming, Pasadena City […]

Lancer freshman Melissa Cienega won two state titles and was second in a third event at the CCCAA State Championships May 4-6 at East Los Angeles College. She is in action here in Saturday’s gold medal swim in the 1,650-yard freestyle, photo by Richard Quinton.

In the two longest distance races in swimming, Pasadena City College women’s team freshman Melissa Cienega played the role of closer to perfection. Cienega duplicated her win in the 500-yard freestyle by catching the original leader in the final stages Saturday as she captured the 1,650 freestyle title at the CCCAA State Swimming and Diving Championships at East Los Angeles College.

The two state titles for Cienega matches the previous best performance by a PCC women’s swimmer when Shannon Cheung won two state crowns at the 2014 state meet. Cienega and Cheung are the only state champion swimmers in the history of PCC women’s swim.

In the mile swim event, Orange Coast’s Katya Burjakowsky led for most of the race (17:47.66) In fact, Burjakowsky built a 6-second lead by the 600-yard mark. But Cienega picked up steam and chipped away until snatching the lead with 50 yards to go. The two swimmers stayed neck-and-neck in the last 25 but Cienega won by .81 of a second. Her winning time was 17:46.85.

On Thursday, Cienega (from John Marshall High) pulled off another stunning comeback in her 500 freestyle win as she caught another OCC swimmer, Sierra Cox, in the last 10 yards to capture that state title.

On Friday, Cienega tried to pull off yet a third rally but this time it was San Diego Mesa’s Anna Stahlak who kept her from recording a historic third state title for the Lancers. Stahlak won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:52.28 while Cienega’s 1:53.88 was good enough for the silver medal in second. And the time just happened to break the PCC school record in the event, beating the 1:55.49 set by Ariahn Givens in 2015.

“Melissa’s determination and drive came together first at the South Coast Conference Championships,” said PCC head coach Terry Stoddard. “Her confidence level here at state was at an all-time high. She focused on what she needed to do, and had three amazing swims. The fact she shaved several seconds off the 200 and 500 freestyle school records shows her talent. In the mile swim, she increased her pace when other swimmers were tiring.”

Cienega finished the meet scoring 57 of the Lancers’ 94 points as the team finished in 13th place overall. Freshman Jocelyn Jo (South Pasadena High) had an impressive meet for herself by snatching three top 8 medals for 36 team points, placing sixth in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.66), seventh in the 200 breaststroke (2:28.70, new school record) and eighth in the 200 individual medley (2:13.94). Sophomore Anais Hacobian scored 16th in the 100 freestyle at 55.87 for the other PCC point.

Cienega and Jo were Co-South Coast Conference Swimmers of the Year. Although the team’s 13th place is the lowest in the last five years, the team has three top 10 finishes in that period, including its best-ever fifth place in 2015.

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Pasadena Sports Now reports on every intramural sport for all Pasadena high schools. We cover both boys and girls teams. It is published by: Editor is Brian Reed-Baiotto

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