Although her bid for three event victories came up short, Pasadena City College sophomore Melissa Cienega once again was a double champion at the CCCAA Swimming and Diving State Championships held May 3-5 at De Anza College in Northern California.
Cienega repeated her title in the 500-yard freestyle, winning in a time of 5:04.30, just .47 of a second off her school record in 2017. Cienega then posted a gold medal swim in the 200 freestyle in 1:54.22 as she held of San Joaquin Delta's Madeline Wittkowske by .44 for her fourth title in two seasons. Cienega had previously broken her own school record in the event at the South Coast Conference Championships when she recorded a 1:53.82 mark.
Her attempt to repeat in the 1,650 freestyle was later foiled by Wittkowske, who won the mile swim in 17:56.97 while Cienega's strategy to always make a late fast push didn't work out as she finished in 17:59.55 and settled for third place. Cienega got into a chase against both Wittkowske and San Diego Mesa's Samantha Schmidt (second, 17:58.44) and the pair never lost steam to the finish. Last year, Cienega swam to the gold in 17:46.85. She swam her personal best at the SCC finals in 17:45.47 (second best in PCC history). Cienega is headed to California Baptist University on a swimming scholarship.
The Lancers women placed 13th overall with 102 points, second among conference colleges to only Mt. San Antonio (eighth, 193 points). Orange Coast won the state team championship.
Sophomore Jocelyn Jo grabbed a sixth place medal in the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.89. Jo's time is the second fastest in PCC history, beating her own best time by .10. Letterman Sharon Perez placed fifth in the consolation final (1:10.51). Jo was fourth in the 200 individual medley consolation final in 2:16.08.
PCC was fourth in the consolation final of the 400 medley relay as Maryjane Martinez, Jo, Cienega and Perez finished in 4:19.05. The 400 freestyle relay of Perez, Martinez, Lindsay Jensen, and Cienega were seventh in the conso final in 3:53.80. The 200 freestyle relay also was seventh in the consolation race (1:44.34) behind Cienega, Jo, Dain Kim and Perez.
"Melissa had that will to win, and for her to be a repeat double state champion and collect four gold medals in two years, it's really an impressive achievement," said PCC head coach Terry Stoddard. "It was hard to match her freshman year where she surprised so many with her big swims. She went from an underdog to being a favorite as a sophomore and still won two state titles here. Melissa also won in three different events in her two years. Her success at PCC is something that may never be beat by one individual."