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With a determined coach, Hilmar dives into swimming
For the first time this year, Hilmar High has a swim team, though the Yellowjackets are mostly young and inexperienced. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
HILMAR — What Hilmar High coach Howard Tremble is doing is what history books are made for: He’s building a sports program from the ground up.
This year is the first time the Yellowjackets will have a swimming team, however inexperienced and youthful the swimmers might be. Ten years ago, Tremble tried — unsuccessfully — to create an environment for local athletes who wanted to take a competitive dip at the high school level and not in an “unattached” kind of way, where past Yellowjackets were allowed to participate in Sac-Joaquin Section swimming events only as individuals.
That’s not a problem anymore, as Hilmar boasts Section-sanctioned swim teams for the first time. In fact, the Yellowjackets have had a number of meets so far this season, including the Roseville Invitational this weekend.
“They deserve a chance to be recognized,” said Tremble, a Hilmar graduate and an All-American at Merced College. “They deserve a chance to get their names out there and be noticed a little bit.”
But Tremble, who has been coaching since after high school, knows it’s going to be a process. He’s working with 20 swimmers — nine of which have no swimming experience. The Yellowjackets can’t practice at the community swimming pool, which was built in the 1950s, during the winter and spring seasons because it doesn’t have a heater.
So they work on their strokes at Livingston High, where they begin their workouts after the local swimmers are finished.
Yes, it’s a humble beginning.
But there’s some talent in the Yellowjackets’ first-ever group of swimmers. The one with the most experience is Anjele Kapeghian, a senior who has participated at the youth level and was a Section competitor as a sophomore. She’s been eager about the season, saying “every high school needs a swim team,” though she’s still adapting.
At the youth level, Kapeghian is used to waiting for all the younger swimmers to finish their events and that could take a long time. Now, there’s not much of a break since the high school groups are smaller and there are not so many heats, making a swim meet go by faster.
But she’s not complaining.
Nor is Tremble, the Hilmar coach. He’s in this for the long run, no matter the obstacles he faces in building a swimming program. He’s in charge of funding for his teams, helping the swimmers get such things as swim caps and swimsuits. Though they have a place to practice, the Yellowjackets don’t get the outdoor Livingston High pool until late in the day to work out before it becomes dark.
Again, it’s a process.
“I’m pumped up and happy about this,” said Tremble, who spent three months working with the Hilmar Unified School District to have his swimming program approved. “I think there’s a lot of future in swimming in Hilmar because right now, I’m also a coach of a summer league that has 125 kids. When they get to high school, they have nowhere to go. It makes it really hard for kids in the sport when there’s no high school swimming.
“We’re going to see how it goes.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.