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Area swimmers hope to make a splash this season
swim pic3
Simmone Gagnon is one of nine swimmers for the first-year Turlock Christian High swim teams. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal

Swimming might be one of the tougher spring sports. It’s not just because of the amount of pain a swimmer puts himself or herself through by swimming lap after lap. In this sport, there aren’t too many days off.

Even on rainy days, the swimmers are in the pool trying to get better and better with each lap. It’s a practice that swimmers everywhere contribute to — and the idea is not lost on the ones competing at the Pitman, Turlock, Turlock Christian and Hilmar swim teams.

Bulldogs swim coach Sonja Raynes is in high demand at the Turlock High swimming pool. For the second consecutive year, she’s the head coach of both the girls and boys teams and in charge of dozens of athletes. But she says that supervising two large groups isn’t an issue. It’s trying to make the swimmers continue to work.

“The challenge is trying to provide enough workouts and variety to keep them interested and keeping them working hard,” Raynes said.

So far, the Turlock girls team has benefitted from the workouts. The Bulldogs are 2-0 in the Central California Conference, while the boys are sitting with a 0-2 mark after meets against Golden Valley and Buhach Colony.

 One of the goals, as always, for Raynes and her teams are qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section Meet. A few Bulldogs made it last season, and Raynes expects to have a group of swimmers to meet the same expectation. The list includes Grant Phillips (200 IM, 500 freestyle and relays) and divers Davis Woods and Cody Huntington for the boys, with Woods also competing in the butterfly and relays, while the key girl swimmers are Jacy Gustafson (100 freestyle, backstroke and relays), Kristine Groteguth (relays and freestyle events) and Sovanna Schaffer (200 and 500 freestyle).

The Pitman Pride have the same expectations.

The boys are guided by Drew Clute, while the girls have a new coach in Michaela Solario. Both coaches have high hopes for their swimmers.

Myles Garon is the senior captain for the boys team, and he swims the 50 and 100 freestyle events.

“We go only as far as his leadership takes us,” Clute said.

Other key returners are Scott Van Winkle (50 and 100 freestyle) and Tyler Jamison (100 backstroke and 200 freestyle).

For the Pitman girls team, the leaders are Kamarin Waite (200 IM, 100 backstroke), Brittany Funk (500 freestyle and 100 butterfly) and Leanna Jasek-Rysdahl (100 backstroke and 100 butterfly).

“I have high hopes,” Solario said. “I have lot of good swimmers. I have numbers. I really hope to do well this year.”

The other two area teams — Hilmar and Turlock Christian — don’t have that kind of numbers, but they do have some of the same expectations.

Hilmar is only in its second season after coach Howard Tremble got the school’s swimming program sanctioned last year.

“The program is starting to be seen as a high school program,” he said. “It’s not a bunch of kids showing up. The kids are getting recognition.”

The Yellowjackets hope to gain more recognition later this season — at Sectionals. Howard has three Section returners in Tori Spears (backstroke), Gracie Alves (butterfly, breast) and Courtney Desalles (freestyle). Kyle Livak (100 breaststroke and 50 freestyle) also has a good shot at making the boys’ Section meet, Tremble added.

Turlock Christian is going through the same process as the Yellowjackets did last season. This is the Eagles’ first year as a sanctioned sport by the Section. And they’re starting small, with just nine swimmers.

“We’re a small team,” coach Boomer Baker said, “but we’re a strong small team. And we’re going to build on that next year.”

This season, the Eagles have some talent in Colin Russell (50 and 100 freestyle) for the boys team and Hailee Baldwin (200 IM, 100 breaststroke) and sprint and middle-distance swimmer Rebekah Muller for the girls team.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.