Costella sparkles in mile victory

Coming off a disappointment at the U.S. Open last weekend in Minneapolis, Lauren Costella rebounded on a positive note Friday at the Pacific Short Course Senior Championships at the Carson City Aquatic Facility.

The 18-year-old Carson Tigersharks standout won the women's 1,650-yard freestyle and clocked an impressive time of 16 minutes, 39.25 seconds in the process during the first day of a meet that continues through Monday. It was obviously a better result than last Saturday at nationals when she was disqualified from the 800 freestyle on a false start.

"It's really nice because last weekend at the U.S. Open was kind of disappointing, just like the 800 and getting DQ'd and stuff, so it was nice to bounce back and swim well here in my first race," Costella said. "I kind of died at the the end, but I ended up taking 10 seconds off my (best) time when you take altitude into account, so I was pretty happy."

Justin Barber, 18, also came out a winner for the Tigersharks in the men's 1,650 -- the only event contested in the meet Friday.

Costella, a Carson High School senior who signed with Stanford, even had practice Friday morning.

"This is really good for in-season, especially short course because normally I'm not really a strong short course swimmer, but I really think it's coming along," said Costella. "We've been training a lot and doing different kinds of workouts and trying to get in more sprinting and I think it's working really well."

Costella was her typical consistent self in the race as she passed the first 500 yards in 4:59.3. She was 10:03.1 after 1,000 yards. And 15:08 after 1,500. It was a solid effort, according to Tigersharks coach Jim Puleo.

"She was very aggressive," Puleo said. "She went out fast, but with real good control. She just fell off and that happens every now and then. I just wish there had been someone there with her in the last 550 yards. Based on her warmup and the way she took it out, she probably could have gone under 16:30 this afternoon, which would have really been a great swim for her. "

Lily Johnson of Reno's Lakeridge Swim Team finished second in 18:03.73 and Shannon Rachford of the Silicon Valley Aquatic Club was third in 18:14.11.

There were other highlights for the Tigersharks during the one-mile competition on Friday. Lauren Metcalf, 15, placed seventh (19:04.77), Barbara Perkins, 14, was eighth (19:13.81) and Rebekah Niehoff, 13, was 12th (19:42.48). Metcalf lowered her time by 22 seconds and Perkins by 15 seconds.

All four contributed points to the team scoring for the Tigersharks. So did Janet Lillegard of the Douglas Dolfins, who finished 14th (19:57.03).

Barber shook off the effects of the flu to post a first-place time of 16:36.94.

"Justin has been sick all week," Tigersharks coach Jim Puleo said of Barber. "He didn't get back in the water until yesterday and you could see he was drained. But give him credit, he went out and did what he had to do to win."

Barber, a Carson senior who signed with Notre Dame last month, finished just under five seconds ahead of 14-year-old Taylor Smith of the West Valley Swim Club (16:41.43).

The Tigersharks had five swimmers crack the top 10 in the men's race. Kiel Costella, 16, placed fourth (17:36.68) and Andrew Willett, 14, was fifth (17:51.93), Adrian Zeh, 16, was seventh (18:23.36) and Jeff Stroup, 16, was ninth (18:44.19). Barber was the only one of the five who didn't improve his time.

The meet continues today starting at 9 a.m. at the Carson City Aquatic Facility.

"This is going to be a good opportunity to see some of our younger kids like Abby Niehoff, Garrett Clayton, Sean McKenna and Sarah Metcalf," Puleo said. "They generally swim age group and now they're getting the opportunity to strap on the goggles and see what they can do against the big kids."

Oh, and by the way, Costella will be back in the pool today, but she will get to go to her Carson High dance in the evening.

"It's kind of crazy because the meet runs through Monday and I really need to go to school, so I don't know if I will be swimming on Monday," Costella said, adding with a smile. "And then tomorrow I'm going to miss finals of the 400 I.M. because of the Christmas Ball. It's my senior year so Jim's letting me go."


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