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Making Waves | Community

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Making Waves
Making Waves

In the face of squalls, the Vista del Lago High girls swim team continues to push forward, carving out a legacy in the water at one of the area’s newest schools.

The Eagles are not funded by the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District, have a pool they can’t compete in for half the season and field no other aquatics program on campus which diminishes their numbers. But, bolstered by a fourth-place finish at last month’s Sac-Joaquin Section Swimming Championships, Vista del Lago’s girls have earned the reputation in the swimming community as a program on the rise.

“It’s really neat to (watch) – they’re setting the tone,” said Eagles coach Joel Garceau, who also heads the swim teams at Folsom High. “They’re setting the traditions.”

The three schools that finished ahead of Vista del Lago – St. Francis, Davis and Rio Americano, respectively – boast a combined 26 section swim titles, so, truly, there is no shame in fourth place.

“I think that’s really cool,” said junior Mikayla Winkler, the squad’s most accomplished swimmer. “We’re a new school and all, but we’re making a name for ourselves.”

Winkler and best friend Katelyn Burson, who also just completed her junior year, pace the young Eagles just as they have with the Sierra Marlins club team they’ve swam for together for the past four years. In a sport that requires long hours (sometimes up to six per day with morning and evening practices, six days a week) to stay on top, Burson and Winkler agree it helps having friendly faces around.

“It helps having people you really like to be around at practice,” Burson said. “It creates a more positive environment.”

Winkler and Burson led the way to a section frosh/soph championship last season. In the same way Winkler, Burson and fellow juniors Stephanie Klotz and Dana Lohmann represent the crest of the first wave of accomplished Vista swimmers, freshman Brittany Oxley hopes to uphold what the older swimmers have built. Oxley said she looks up to the two junior standard-bearers.

“That is absolutely my goal,” Oxley said. “They’ve led the junior class, I feel like (doing the same) is my place.”

Oxley competed on the Eagles varsity section team, along with fellow underclassmen Caroline Coffman, Madison Rode and Hannah Safford, with all gaining valuable experience. In addition to the varsity competitors, freshmen Hannah Braidman, Katie Kessler, Ava Obenaus, Katelyn Staab and Kristin White all qualified for the frosh/soph meet. Over half of the Eagles 26 female swimmers qualified for the section meet this season between the varsity and frosh/soph meets, with Winkler taking home the varsity title in the 500-meter freestyle.

Early returns seem to suggest that if not for myriad outside factors that the program could be even stronger.

At 26 girls (and just 16 boys), the Eagles are a numbers-challenged program. Contrasted with programs like St. Francis, at which one in 10 students swim for the Troubadours, or Davis, a one-school town, the Eagles have about half as many swimmers.

Both of those schools, in addition to Rio Americano, also have strong water polo and diving teams, neither of which schools in the Folsom-Cordova Unified School district do.

Garceau estimated Vista del Lago’s numbers would double if water polo were available at the school if for no other reason than the swim team offers a built-in offseason conditioning program; much the same way football coaches steer athletes toward track and field in the spring.

“There’s less opportunity,” Garceau said. “If we doubled (in numbers) I’m sure we would have more club swimmers and more section-level competitors.”

Compounding the situation is that, despite a sparkling, state-of-the-art pool right on campus, the Eagles have to bus to Folsom’s city aquatic center for half of the season. The school and the district cannot afford to maintain it year-round, thus, as part of a trade, the Eagles swim at Lembi Community Park during times when their own pool sits vacant. It is not until April, when the City of Folsom begins operating the Vista del Lago pool that the team can practice on campus.

“That’s another drawback – we’re remote,” Garceau said. “We have to bus to practice.”

Despite the obstacles though, the Eagles expect to compete for the big prize next Spring: a section team title.

“We’re competing against some huge programs with a lot of history,” Garceau said. “Right now the stars are aligning and we’ve got a core group of competitive girls.”