It was only a matter of time.
As four Malibu High School senior swimmers were gearing up for the CIF-Southern Section prelims, their 200- and 400-meter freestyle relay times were inching ever closer to record-breaking status with each passing meet.
Alec Wilimovsky, Logan Hotchkiss, JC Heckman and Thelen McKinna-Worrell finally broke through in both events on May 13, catapulting the team into the finals the following week where they won second place in Division IV.
McKinna-Worrell anchors the team, which made him the last to touch the pad in both races.
“It felt like I was the one beating the record,” McKinna-Worrell said.
The Sharks recorded a time of 1 minute, 26.30 seconds in the 200-meter race, beating the previous time of 1:28.70, set in 2013 by Temescal Canyon High School. In the 400-meter event, MHS finished with a time of 3:11.67, overtaking the previous record of 3:14.14 set in 2006 by Oaks Christian High School.
The Sharks also won their third straight Frontier League title this year.
Wilimovsky and Hotchkiss have been teammates for their entire high school careers. Heckman and McKinna-Worrell, however, transferred to MHS for their senior year.
The foursome formed a quick bond that extends outside of the pool. Wilimovsky said all of them hang out frequently.
“It just helps with the team dynamic,” Wilimovsky said. “None of us are strangers and we all know if anyone’s having a good day or a bad day. It just helps immensely.”
In addition to swimming, Wilimovsky also ran cross country for MHS and is a triathlete. Coach Mike Mulligan said Wilimovsky’s determination and work ethic are what make him a great athlete.
“He’s like a bulldog,” Mulligan said. “He just gets it in his mind what he wants to accomplish and he goes after it.”
Mulligan considers Hotchkiss the most all-around swimmer on the team and the best to ever come through the high school, and has enjoyed coaching both Wilimovsky and Hotchkiss over the years.
“It’s been a pleasure just to watch them grow and set goals and be able to accomplish them,” Mulligan said. “They have tremendous determination, tremendous self-discipline to get in the water every day for four years.”
Not every boy on the team has roots in swimming. McKinna-Worrell was on track to be a professional surfer but decided to quit. When his mom told him he had to join a sport, he chose swimming because he already felt comfortable in the water and thought he would be good at it.
“It turned out I was a lot better than I thought,” McKinna-Worrell said.
Heckman was another newcomer to the team this year, although he was on the swim team at his previous high school. While he admits to not getting much practice time with Wilimovsky and Hotchkiss during the year, Heckman said that when it came time for competition, the four were always on the same page.
“Whenever we were at the meets, it felt like we were swimming together for our whole lives,” Heckman said.
Heckman credits the entire team and coaching staff for making him feel comfortable as soon as he arrived at MHS.
“I felt part of the family within the first week or two that I came here,” Heckman said.
Mulligan was disappointed the team came in second at the CIF-SS Finals because he wanted to see the seniors go out on top.
“It would’ve been great for Alec and Logan and all the kids who competed in CIF for them to win a team title,” Mulligan said. “That would’ve been very, very cool.”
The future of the swim team at MHS after this year is a question mark. With seven seniors on the team graduating, Mulligan said some underclassmen are going to have to step up in order to keep the winning tradition of the high school alive.
Mulligan said sophomores Everest Brady and Ben Tran could be the future of Malibu swimming.
“Those two guys, they looked up to the seniors and they really learned a lot of what it takes to be a fast, strong swimmer,” Mulligan said. “They’re just emulating those seniors’ work ethic. Hopefully that will carry through to next year and the underclassmen will look up to those two kids.”