By Patty Pope
The El Dorado Hills Tasmanian Devils swim team claimed second place this past weekend during the Suburban Swim League Championships at Sierra College in Rocklin.
Falling to their archrivals the Park Terrace Penguins by 53 points, the Taz earned 1,055 points total, brought home a perfect regular season record of 7-0 and received the prestigious SSL “President’s Award” for best points per splash ratio.
The final SSL Championships Meet 2012 team scores are as follows: Park Terrace Penguins – 1,108; El Dorado Hills Tasmanian Devils – 1,055; Granite Bay Gators – 886; Sierra Sharks – 797; Folsom Sea Otters – 773; Loomis Basin Dolphins – 675; Broadstone Barracudas – 641; and College Greens – 403.
At the close of Saturday’s events, the El Dorado Hills (663 points) and Park Terrace (683 points) teams’ battle for first place was clearly on as most had predicted.
“Wow, it’s really tight, too close to call right now,” said Taz head coach Jason Brown early Sunday morning. “Taz is swimming hard. I’m really proud of all the swimmers and their efforts. I’ve seen great teamwork, great team support which has made all the difference.
“I have to thank the swimmers and coaches for cheering each other on and keeping all of us ready and pumped,” Brown continued . “The 7-8 girls and boys teams are doing really well, and the 11-12 boys are scoring big points. Nicholas Grinnell, 12, broke three SSL records, not club records, league records!”
Nicholas’ new top record for the boys 11-12 50-yard freestyle is 25:53, overtaking the previous time of 25:63 set by Derek Taylor of Park Terrace in 2007. A second record set by Nicholas is the boys 11-12 50-yard backstroke which, at 29:17, surpasses the record of 29:57 set by Taz teammate Trevor Dong in 2008. Finally, Nicholas’ time of 28:18 in the boys 11-12 50-yard butterfly wiped away a league record of 28:20 set by Andy Cunningham in 2006.
Nicholas has been a Taz swimmer since he was 4 years old, swimming on the 6-and-under team. “It’s unbelievable,” he said with a smile. “When I’m swimming it doesn’t feel like I’m going as fast as you need to in order to break a record.”
While waiting for the finals and relays, Nicholas shared his race preparation routine. “I stay hydrated, and I’m not running around or anything. I just tell myself not to think about it.”
As the teams battled on, plenty more records were shattered by Taz swimmers. Heading into her last Champs weekend, Annie Harriman, 18, hoped to establish at least one new record. Her hard work paid off and her wish came true. Annie’s signature backstroke earned her a time of 1:02:03, a new league record that once belonged to Erica Robbins of Park Terrace with a time of 1:02:10 set in 2005.
Morgan Jones, 14, named Freshman Female Athlete of the Year at Oak Ridge High School for water polo, basketball and swimming, broke her own league record set in 2011 for the girls 13-14 100-yard freestyle. Morgan’s new time was established in the preliminary races at 55:31, beating last year’s time of 55:46.
Also breaking from the pack was 8-year-old Taz swimmer Patrick Sammon. During the boys 7-8 25-yard butterfly, Patrick set a new league record time of 14:91, shattering Derek Taylor’s (Park Terrace) time of 15:07 set in 2003.
To say the least, Kim Sammon is proud of her son.
“This is the third year in a row that Patrick will achieve the status of high point boy, which has never been done before, ever!” Kim said. “Honestly, I don’t know how he does it. My husband and I are not swimmers. Patrick’s been swimming since he was 2 1/2, and he swam like a tadpole. I had no idea that it wasn’t normal. He’s into it; he motivates himself and tells me that he just listens to his coaches.”
In addition to record-setting events, remarkable come-from-behind stories emerged as the heart depth of the Tasmanian Devils swim team was exposed. One example is how 8-year-old Kacey Ross, the fourth leg freestyle swimmer in the girls 7-8 100-yard medley relay, made up enough time to bring her fourth-seed team into a second place finish.
Taz dad Brad Simkin explained how his daughter, 8-year-old Kelly Simkin, is also an example of tail-end, remarkable accomplishment. “Kelly started the swim season at the beginning of June with a broken arm. She swam the first two swim meets with a cast, and today she is seeded third in the 25-yard breast stroke finals!”
While London played host to the Games of the XXX Olympiad, the Tasmanian Devils played host team of the 45th SSL Champs. The SSL teams rotate turns hosting the Champs and 2012 belonged to Taz. As host team, Taz was responsible for the entire facility throughout the weekend.
Anthony Chavez is the Taz representative on the SSL board of directors and dad of two Taz swimmers, Kira, 14, and Isa, 10. During Saturday’s backstroke events, Chavez commented on his role as a Taz host official, saying, “First of all, this is the best Champs ever, and I hope Taz wins. We’ve secured two out of three bigs (perfect regular season record and the President’s Award) and I’d like to see us cap it off with a Champs win!”
Chavez continued, “We started setting up early on Friday, and we’ve had a lot of help — Jack Peterson, Brad Nichols and Mike Hagen has been my shadow. So far, the meet is running smoothly; no issues.”
Chavez also said he would like to see the Taz innovations of this year continue into Champs next year and continue on. “For example, this year we implemented carpeted pathways leading in and out of the pool area, and it’s been very well received by the other teams.”
“Another innovation of ours this year is the ‘Shiver Shack’,” added Taz Vice President Jack Peterson. “The Shiver Shack is an air-conditioned, enclosed tented area that swimmers can use for cooling down in this hot weather. It’s available to all teams.”
Constant improvements are what the Taz Board of Directors is all about, according to Chavez. “We’re forever making changes, not just for Champs, but continually ramping up our programs,” he explained. “This year, we offered swim clinics after the last swim season, in October and November, and then again in spring. We thought it was a good way to keep the kids swimming, and working on stroke technique so they’re ready to go when the season begins. It also helps the coaches in that they don’t have to spend as much time getting re-acquainted with the swimmers when we start up again. It was a first time learning for us, and we plan to offer the clinics again.”
Many Taz swimmers will participate in the Meet of Champions, August 4-5, in Woodland. Eligibility for the Meet of Champions is based on qualifying times. The MOC is an All-Star swim meet that brings together the top recreational/summer league swimmers from the greater Sacramento Valley Area.
Visit the El Dorado Hills Tasmanian Devils website, edhtaz.org, for details on off-season swim clinics as well as team registration information.