LODI — Davis High has had a raft-load of solid boys swimmers over the years, but it had been more than a decade since the Blue & White has captured a pennant.
All that changed Saturday as the locals used another brilliant performance from senior Matt Whittle to win their 10th Sac-Joaquin Section title with a 307-277 victory over Granite Bay. Jesuit (259) was third.
“It was bittersweet, really,” Whittle told the Enterprise.
Whittle was undoubtedly thinking of this last time he and his teammates would swim together.
But after celebrating with his brethren by tossing Blue Devil coach Tracy Stapleton into the pool at Tokay High, Whittle was delighted in what had finally transpired:
“All of us guys, together, getting that title we’ve been trying to get for four years now. I’m really happy we finally got it.”
DHS wasted no time in serving notice.
Whittle joined freshman Tucker Fisk, senior Jonathan Pun and junior Riley Hickman in setting a new section record, going 1:31.21 in the 200-yard medley relay.
Not even an hour later, Whittle waxed a talented field in the 200 individual medley. His 1:48.69 was almost five seconds faster than Vacaville runner-up C.J. Pais’ 1:53.20.
If this were the Olympics, Whittle would have won four gold medals in a single day …
He went on to capture the 100 butterfly (48.30) and help etch Davis High’s name in the section record books again when he, Soren Dickens, Pun and Hickman won the 200 free relay in 1:23.24. It was a full second ahead of second-place Granite Bay.
“After 26 years coaching, (Saturday) is the best,” explained DHS mentor Tracy Stapleton, adding that this group of swimmers had endured injury, untimely disqualifications, “just a lot of back luck” in recent memory.
(Last year Davis lost to Jesuit by 4.5 points when standout senior Connor Stapleton was rehabbing an injury. The Blue Devils also got DQ’d at the start of a key race two seasons ago and suffered through a relay miscue.)
“Just to see them come out on top,” Stapleton continued. “My son Connor told me after last year’s water polo win, ‘I didn’t realize how great it was going to feel until we actually jumped in the water to celebrate.’ He was right.”
Hickman, in addition to his contributions on the relays, took two second-place honors with a 46.05 in the 100 free and a 1:39.02 in the 200 free.
Senior Pun, who along with Whittle spoke to the younger swimmers this week for apparent motivation that worked, also swam well.
He finished second in the 100 breaststroke (56.34), but shouldn’t feel so bad — the winner Connor Hoppe of Golden Valley set a new national prep record going 53.06.
Jesuit’s speedy Keegan Shuping doubled by winning the 50 and 100 frees (20.62 and 45.58), while teammate Chris Wieser captured the 200 free (1:38.88) and 500 free (4:26.46).
Stapleton said earlier in the week that it will be our “rank-and-file” swimmers that might make the difference in pulling in much-needed points.
He was right as Fisk’s 47.67 won the consolation 100 free and Cameron Wright went 52.59 for a consolation second in the 100 butterfly. Other consolation points came from Dickens (second in the 50 free), Ben Diamant (100 breast) and Daniel Alvarez and Ben Culberson in the 500 free.
As for the past few seasons?
“This was a good way to end that run,” said a smiling Stapleton.
Notes: Hoppe and Whittle will join forces next season as they head to Cal. So why the Golden Bears, the Davis senior was asked: “It felt like home. I grew up a Cal fan. It’s the best opportunity for me academically and in the water, (the Golden Bears) coming off that national championship. Really excited about the next four years.” … Davis had six All-American times: Hickman (1:39.02) in the 200 free; Whittle in both the 100 fly and 200 IM (1:48.69); Pun’s 100 breast; and both the 200 medley and 200 free relays.