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DHS assistant coach Dakotah Sturla talks to three Blue Devil swimmers — from left, Gabi Ramer, Kiera Schuster and Hailey Looney — at a recent practice. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo


DHS girls aim for record 19th section swim title

By From page B1 | February 23, 2014

The 2013 Davis High girls swim team cruised to the Sac-Joaquin Section title, winning eight of 11 events to top second-place Granite Bay, 360-295. That day, the Blue Devil score was the second-highest championship total in section history.

And, since just two of that team’s swimmers have since moved on — Tara Halsted is now at Stanford and Marissa LaFreniere is at UC Davis — DHS is a clear favorite to retain its crown, which would be its third straight and 19th overall.

“The girls have a really strong core coming back,” said second-year coach Tracy Stapleton, who also leads the Devil boys squad. “We have a chance to do really well and we know it’s all about each day putting your best foot forward. I tell the athletes that it’s about pushing the bus forward.”

The plethora of returning swimmers includes seniors Kathleen Benjamin and Alex Rieger and junior Emma Barksdale who were all part of the 200 medley relay team that last year set a section championship record with its time of 1:44.26.

Rieger, the anchor of that relay crew, and Barksdale are just two of many Blue Devils who also swim for the Davis Aquadarts — a club team that recently placed eighth in the 2013 USA Junior National Championships.

Some of these top swimmers don’t actually practice with the DHS team, electing instead to practice with their club teams.

“We have a great relationship with the club teams in Davis,” Stapleton said. “The fact of the matter is, if we did not have athletes training with their club, we couldn’t run the program that we do because we simply don’t have enough space.”

But that doesn’t mean that this Davis team of 60 swimmers is only about the individual stars.

“We have kids on this team who have never swum a race in their life,” Stapleton said. “We have a way to incorporate all of those athletes.

“Every athlete is going to try and contribute as best as they possibly can,” Stapleton added. “(Finishing) 16th place (in the section finals) is one point. Everyone can have a role. That’s what I love about high school swimming and scholastic swimming. You don’t have to be a superstar to make a difference. There’s eight different events. Everyone will have the opportunity to swim everything at one point or another.”

Though he preaches the team-aspect of the sport, Stapleton does expect the duo of senior Heather Johnson and sophomore Chenoa Devine to shine. Johnson and Devine were both part of the 200 freestyle relay squad that finished second at the 2013 section meet while Devine took the 200 free title at the same competition.

With a surplus of young talent, the Devils will have an “x” on their backs when they open their Delta Valley Conference slate with a dual meet Wednesday, March 12, at Arroyo Pool, but Stapleton, doesn’t seem to be lacking in confidence.

“There’s no question that (this team) should be competing for the section title,” Stapleton said.

Notes: Before its league season begins, the DHS girls team will join the Blue Devil boys at the Jesuit Invitational Friday and Saturday at Jesuit High. … Stapleton is assisted by former DHS and UC Davis water polo star Dakotah Sturla (née Mohr). … With 18 Sac-Joaquin Section championships, the Devils are historically the best team in the area, with Rio Americano trailing them by 10 championships as their closest competition.

— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam

Evan Ream

Evan Ream graduated with a B.A. in journalism from Southern Oregon in Ashland, Ore. He loves soccer more than any person rationally should. "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that." - Bill Shankly
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