LODI — “It was just amazing.”
Tracy Stapleton had just finished his first season as the Davis High girls swim coach and he was searching for the words. “Amazing” was what came to mind … over and over.
Winning eight of 11 events — including two relays in record-setting time — the Blue Devils left everyone in their wake in capturing an 18th Sac-Joaquin Section swimming championship.
In the first event of the finals round at Tokay High on Saturday, DHS let the cat out of the bag …
The Devils used solid legs by Tara Halsted, Kathleen Benjamin, Emma Barksdale and anchor Alex Rieger to win the 200 medley relay, setting a new section standard (1:44.26).
Almost immediately thereafter, freshman Chenoa Devine — whose trial time of 1:52.26 qualified her fifth — discovered her finals gear, going 1:49.61 to capture the 200 freestyle.
Twenty minutes later, senior Halsted (2:02.07) and Barksdale (2:02.16) had a ding-dong battle in the 200 individual medley before the Stanford-bound 12th-grader came from behind to out-touch her sophomore teammate.
When the waves calmed four hours later, the Blue Devils had 360 points — outdistancing runner-up Granite Bay (295) and Rio Americano (258).
“To me, it was like Murderers’ Row, the 1927 Yankees,” baseball fan Stapleton told The Enterprise. “Those first three events, bam! What was it? One hundred forty or fifty points just like that?
Linden’s two-time winner Brittany Aoyama interrupted the onslaught when she needed a SJS record time (23.32) to beat runner-up Rieger (23.46) in the 50 free. Local Marrisa LaFreniere’s 24.35 captured fourth.
After Davis’ Vivian Crow took sixth in the 100 butterfly consolation final, the Devil torpedoes were back at it in the 100 free — Rieger (51.49) and LaFreniere (52.28) completing the exacta.
Then, distance specialist Devine left little double about what was in store in the near future of the 500 freestyle event.
Leading every stroke of the way, the Holmes ninth-grader splashed home in 4:49.18, more than three seconds better than Rio Americano freshman runner-up Sydney Larson (4:52.62). DHS’ Heather Johnson brought home more points with a seventh-place finish (5:03.69).
“It really was something,” Stapleton said, knowing his girls would be targets after impressive qualifying swims (the Devils had the top qualifying times in eight events). “When other girls see those prelims … they say ‘We have to beat that girl from Davis.”
A good thought, but on this day almost impossible …
Rio Americano defended its 200 free relay crown, erasing its one-year-old record by swimming 1:35.32 (0.62 quicker than 2012). The Davis quartet of LaFreniere, Barksdale, Johnson and Devine was right behind at 1:36.31.
In the final three events, DHS was styling.
Halstead made short work of the 100 backstroke field, covering the distance in 55.46, then immediately resting for the final girls relay.
In between, Benjamin and Vista del Lago’s Brittany Oxley hooked up in an extended 100 breaststroke battle before the Blue Devil junior reached the wall first in 1:03.31. Oxley was right behind (1:03.61), but Barksdale’s fifth-place finish (1:05.15) added to the Davis avalanche.
Of course the Devils saved what might have been the best for last.
Rieger, LaFreniere, Devine and a rejuvenated Halsted put one more record in the books, erasing Rio’s 400 free section record of 3:28.44. The local foursome cruised home in 3:26.51, just over a second ahead of Granite Bay (3:27.58) with Rio in third (3:27.83).
Stapleton wasn’t sure — and CIF records are incomplete — if another girls team has ever won eight of 11 events:
“If it has happened. I know it does not happen often.”
Well, maybe this eight-of-11 thing will be more frequent.
“This really is a young team. Both the girls and the boys,” said Stapleton, who took over the girls program this spring — and has been the boys’ coach for 25 seasons. “Mentally (Saturday) was a sight to see. Very cool.”
Notes: “On behalf of the team, I would like to particularly thank our Davis High coaching staff — Ro Davis and Matt Crawford — for their tireless dedication this season (in) helping the athletes reach their potentials,” Stapleton said after the long, happy day. Stapleton went on to thank “the coaches of the outstanding swim teams in Davis … (Aquadarts director) Billy Doughty and his staff as well as Peter and Koren Motekaitis of the Davis Aquamonsters. And finally, the parents of our swimmers for their support and assistance.” … Counting swimmers, a crowd of more than 3,000 jammed into the aquatics center at Tokay. … DHS girls earned three automatic All-American times in the relays, seven individual All-American times and one AA consideration.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.