LODI — With a handful of swimmers scoring individual points — and a game Blue Devil relay squad winning two of three races — Davis High was this close to winning its 10th boys Sac-Joaquin Section title on Saturday.
“Their performance was monumental,” said Blue Devil coach Tracy Stapleton. “One of the best finishes I’ve seen. Yeah, we’re not the champs … But we had some of the best swims. It was terrific.”
Finishing second to Jesuit by only 4.5 points — 239.5 to 235 — DHS was swimming without standout senior Connor Stapleton (knee). But in winning six of the 11 events, coach Stapleton said his team adjusted and almost pulled off the upset. Granite Bay was just behind in third with 231.
No excuses. Nothing to feel bad about. These Devils are still young — and some of that youth dug deep at Tokay High in these contentious finals.
Sophomore Riley Hickman continues to develop: two individual wins and partnership in two winning relay efforts. Junior Matt Whittle showcased his versatility: taking titles in a pair of distinctly different events while helping Hickman and Company capture those relays.
Of the 42 DHS team members, only four will graduate next month.
“What I appreciate is their competitiveness, their stead-fastness,” Stapleton added. “They kept battling. When athletes rise to an occasion like this, it’s just a wonderful thing to see.”
The Blue Devils took no prisoners early on …
First, Hickman (backstroke), Jonathan Pun (breaststroke), Whittle (butterfly) and Sean Li (freestyle) handily beat Oak Ridge and Jesuit with a 1:34.22 in the 200 medley relay. The Trojans were second in 1:36.22 and the Marauders splashed home in 1:37.94.
Then, Hickman’s 1:38.27 was more than a second up on Jesuit’s Chris Wieser’s second-place 1:39.99 in the 200 free. Wieser, however, would later help cement Davis’ fate when his 4:23.01 not only won the 500 free, but set a new Sac-Joaquin meet mark.
When Whittle won the 200 individual medley (1:48.69), the Devils were 3-for-3 and seemingly cruising. In that medley event, Pun put up points with a seventh-place finish (1:57.73) and Andrew Block got consolation-heat numbers, winning it in 1:57.57.
Granite Bay interrupted the roll when Kevin Wylder took the 50 free — a race the Devils have always had great success in — with a 20.96 swim. (Former Blue Devil Jake Allen owns the section record, 20.35 in 2007)
Whittle’s 48.26 took the 100 fly and the 100 free went to Hickman in 45.28.
When Wieser won the championship division of the 500, Adam Raabe managed consolation points for DHS with a fourth-place finish (4:47.90).
Vista del Lago’s Adam Banks went 50.74 to take the 100 back — but there were no Davis entries in either division.
When Connor Hoppe (Golden Valley) won the 100 breast just before the meet’s final relay, it was particularly sour.
Not only did Hoppe’s 54.81 beat out second-place Pun (56.74) and fifth-place Block (58.65), his time erased a pair of Davis swimmers from the record book.
Hoppe’s new section mark eclipsed the 55.74, set by Blue Devil Keenan Newman (2002) and tied last year by Whittle.
Jesuit took the 200 free relay in 1:25.37, with the Davis team of Graham Fullerton, Garrett Fisk, Block and Li finishing third in the consolation finals (1:30.32).
A stirring last race featured the Blue Devils and Marauders competing in a nip-and-tuck 400 free relay.
With Whittle, Block and Pun going nose-to-nose with Jesuit and Bear Creek competitors, anchor Hickman finally had enough kick left to nip the Red-and-Gold at the wall — 3:06.23 to 3:06.69.
Despite the juggling of lineups due to last month’s loss of Connor Stapleton, who was hobbling all over the place Saturday, encouraging teammates and providing advice, DHS was right there at the end.
“You don’t rally like we did unless (the guys) feel for each other,” coach Stapleton said. “The guys did a great job.”
Notes: Hickman and Riley earned All-American times in their victories, the 200 medley and 400 free relays were automatic AA times and Pun’s second-place finish in the 100 breast was an All-American number. Whittle had an AA time in the same event in the Delta Valley Conference finals two weeks ago. … In the frosh/soph division, Granite Bay (232) won, Jesuit (195) was second with Davis (136) third.