LODI — The two-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section swim champions did all they could Saturday in an effort to three-peat, but even a convincing meet-ending win in the 400 freestyle relay wasn’t quite enough.
When the water calmed, it was Granite Bay nipping the Blue Devil girls, 327-321.5, for the section title at Tokay High.
“What do I take away from (Saturday)?” an emotional DHS coach Tracy Stapleton wondered afterward. “Respect. I have such respect for these girls. And pride.
“Pride in the kids, pride in the community, pride in the hard work …”
It wouldn’t be until a couple of hours after the meet that Stapleton would collect himself enough to talk further to the media.
“There’s gratitude, too,” Stapleton said later. “How blessed the Davis community is to have Billy Doughty and the Aquadarts, Pete Motekaitis, the Aquamonsters. They are absolutely integral to our success at the high school — and not just Davis High, but Vacaville, Dixon and other schools benefit.”
On Saturday, a standing-room-only throng of more than 1,000 fans got an early hint of the close battle the Grizzlies and Blue Devils would wage.
In the opening 200-yard medley relay, the two squads swam side-by-side until Granite Bay prevailed by .08 (1:44.57-1:44.65).
Along the way, the tide ebbed and flowed …
The Devils’ brilliant sophomore submariner Chenoa Devine broke the school record in winning the 200 free in 1:49.46. She would later rewrite the Davis benchmark in the grueling 500 free. Devine went that distance in 4:47.81 (the second time in three days she had upped the ante).
Blue Devil speedster Alex Rieger won the 50 free (23.74), while junior Emma Barksdale splashed home for gold in both the 200 individual medley (2:01.99) and the 100 free (51.18) — but as good as the locals were performing, Granite Bay was riding their wake.
Heaven Quintana picked up second-place points in two events and paced the Grizzlies’ 200 free relay victory.
After Rieger’s dazzling 55.55 captured the 100 backstroke, Julianne Tadena went 1:03.09 to win the 100 breaststroke.
Those big double-point wins in the two relays were significant as the two teams went into the final relay with GBHS leading by 12.5 points.
For DHS to climb over the Grizzlies, it needed to win the 400 free relay finale (which it did, going 3:26.77) and The Bay had to finish fifth or worse (which it did not, coming in a distance second — 3:31.42 — and holding sway).
Stapleton, the longtime boys coach who took over the girls team from coach Doug Wright last season, shook his head and searched for words just after the intense two-team battle that saw St. Francis wash ashore in third (210 points):
“It’s been great to develop relationships with these senior girls. I’ll miss them.”
Rieger, who spent her freshman year swimming for St. Francis, took time to reflect on her prep career …
“There aren’t even words for it … growing with this team. We come to sections and we fight so hard. I’ve grown so close to the girls and the guys. It’s meant so much.
“I’ll be going to college with a smile on my face.”
Rieger is headed for Georgia Tech.
Notes: Barksdale (200 IM), 500 free maven Devine, Rieger (100 back) and the 400 free relay team (Rieger, Heather Johnson, Barksdale and Devine) all had Saturday times that earned them automatic All-American status from the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association. Barksdale also gets All-American consideration for her 100 free effort, as do Devine (in the 200 free) and Rieger (50 free). … 2014 marks the ninth time the DHS girls have been section runners-up. They have won 18 championships.