The Davis High girls swimming team is in familiar territory this week — it’s Sac-Joaquin Section Championship meet time.
The Blue Devils are set to defend their section crown with 11 standout swimmers, including senior Marissa LaFreniere, who is in her fourth year as a varsity competitor.
LaFreniere is a sprinter, as her two specialty events are the 50- and 100-yard freestyle. Her evolution into that role began at age 5, when her desire to participate in the sport stemmed from simply looking at a pool.
“When I was younger, (my family) would go on walks, we would always walk by Community Pool, but it was always closed because it was during the winter,” said LaFreniere, whose sister Alex is a strong junior contributor for the DHS squad. “Then, during that summer, my mom took me to the same pool, and I ended up joining the club team there.”
The talented athlete played other sports such as soccer, volleyball, track and field and water polo, but eventually decided to stick with swimming.
“I was best at (swimming),” LaFreniere said. “It just came so easy and natural to me because it was my first sport.”
And her list of accomplishments would suggest that the pool is where she belongs. LaFreniere helped the Devils capture the SJS title last year, and she also won an individual championship in the 100 free as a sophomore in 2011. To this day, LaFreniere remembers the moment when she won that crown.
“I think I was seeded third,” LaFreniere said, “but I knew I had a good chance of winning it. At one of the walls I slipped and in my head I was like, ‘Nooo!’ But something inside me really pushed me and I ended up finishing strong and won first place. I was so happy. It was awesome.”
LaFreniere is hoping the titles keep coming this week — DHS swims in the section trials on Thursday at Tokay High in Lodi and the championships are Saturday in the same pool — and next year, when she stays in town to swim for UC Davis.
“I’m just amazed at how fast my time at DHS went by,” she said. “I still remember my time as a freshman, when I was racing against all these seniors. It still hasn’t hit me that it’s been four years yet.”
As defending section champions, the local girls team will have a target on their backs. Davis coach Tracy Stapleton expects strong competition from St. Francis, Granite Bay and Rio Americano.
“There’s going to be some strong swimmers from a few other (smaller) schools,” Stapleton said. “You’re going to get some good swimmers from Woodcreek, but they’re not going to have the depth. If they show up to a meet with four kids, they’re not going to compete against a team of 12.”
Stapleton expects LaFreniere to be a major part of Blue Devil scoring along with other standouts like Tara Halsted — who swam at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials — Alex Rieger, Kathleen Benjamin, Emma Barksdale and Heather Johnson.
“For us, it’s all about focusing your effort on doing what you have control over and doing your very best,” Stapleton said. “You prepare yourself the best; you work hard in practice; you’re rested; you’re focused; you know your race strategy; you execute that and then let the chips fall where they may. And with our girls team, if they do that, they should come out on top.”