Loyola's Rex Maurer shows he's in a class by himself at Southern Section swim finals

Loyola swimmer Rex Maurer.
Loyola senior swimmer Rex Maurer. (Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

By the time his lanky arms first reached the wall, it was clear nobody in the pool at Riverside City College was going to challenge Rex Maurer.

“He’s going to lap them,” muttered Justin Lee, a student at Pasadena Poly, from a crowd of awed spectators. “At a CIF final. He’s going to lap them.”

Disbelief suspended for minutes after Maurer’s final time in the 500-meter freestyle flashed on the board at the Southern Section finals Friday night, spectators chattering about the senior as if he were some sort of demigod.

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And, yes, the Loyola senior and top-ranked Stanford commit was simply trying to earn points for his team, as any good swimmer would, but this was bigger.

This meet was never really about racing the eight swimmers next to him. It was about racing the guy who sat on top of history.

A year ago, Maurer swam the 400 next to former Stanford All-American and Team USA member Grant Shoults at the Fran Crippen Swim Meet of Champions at Mission Viejo. It was Shoults' last race in a dominant swim career. And afterward Shoults gave Maurer his swim cap.

“I think you can take down my record,” Maurer remembered Shoults telling him. “So go get ’em.”


On Friday, Maurer grabbed the torch, in fact nearly lapping another swimmer, as he completed his final lap in the Division 1 500 with an eye-popping time of 4 minutes 12.70 seconds — a hair faster than Shoults’ 2016 national-record time of 4:12.87 while at Santa Margarita.

He pumped his left fist after touching the wall, raising his other to the sky as he roared toward the Loyola supporters.

“I’ve been looking at that record since last year,” said Maurer, who added it hadn’t really sunk in yet.

It wasn’t enough for the Loyola boys to unseat Santa Margarita as Southern Section champions, as the Eagles plunged into the pool after the meet in celebration of their third straight Division 1 team plaque. It furthered a scintillating rivalry with Loyola, who fell by just one and a half points in 2021 and lost 405-402 to Santa Margarita on Friday. Senior Humberto Najera’s win in the 100-yard backstroke “turned the tide,” co-head coach Ron Blanc said.


Even still, he drew awe from his rivals, the very program that saw Shoults set his 500-meter record.

“I told him that Grant Shoults ... would be incredibly proud,” Blanc said, “that he’s the one that broke it.”

He’s the latest from a powerhouse swim family to break a record. His brother, Luke, is an All-American at Stanford; his father, Erik, an NCAA champion at Stanford; his mother, Lea, an Olympic champion and current USC swim coach.

You wouldn’t know it if you walked into their home. There’s just a few photos on the wall of Maurers swimming. Lea’s Olympic medals, Erik said with a laugh, are in a sock drawer.


But their pride in Rex, the top recruit in the class of 2023, is clear.

“It’s been a hard week,” Erik said after Rex’s first win Friday in the 200-meter freestyle, choking through the words, eyes red.

Maurer’s mentality was there Friday. His body, not quite. Last Saturday, he tried walking down the stairs to practice and felt so ill he, essentially, turned around and slept the rest of the weekend. He still couldn’t get out of bed Monday. He was on antibiotics for the preliminaries Wednesday.

But this was a kid who, at 5, was so bored of getting dragged to Luke’s youth meets that he demanded he compete at the next race. And now he was ready to join his brother at Stanford, and he had a week left to make history.


“Especially with the high school team, it’s my last year,” Maurer said, when asked his mentality. “Just trying to do it for them.”

And trying to do it for history too.

Santa Margarita girls continue their run

No such Loyola-esque rivalry exists for the Santa Margarita girls’ team, which continued to blow the competition out of the water en route to winning its ninth straight section title Friday.

Senior Asia Kozan won both the 100 and 200 freestyle, and sophomore Teagan O’Dell bested her own Division 1 record with a time of 51.45 seconds in the 100 backstroke.

“With the swims she’s doing, she’s going to be in the running for the national swimmer of the year,” co-head coach Rich Blanc said of O’Dell.


Another record-breaker

Riverside Poly freshman Ava DeAnda continued to mark herself as a name to watch for years to come in the Southern Section, winning the girls’ Division II 200-yard freestyle and breaking the Division II record in the girls’ 100-yard freestyle with a time of 48.85 seconds in her home pool. Her goal for next season: move up to Division I, where she would’ve beat any time in the 100-yard freestyle.

“I just keep pushing myself,” DeAnda said. “There is no let off the gas.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.