By Mike McIntee
The El Dorado Hills Tasmanian Devils and Sierra Sharks waged a spirited contest through much of the day June 9 before the Taz pulled away for a 479-417 victory.
The Taz win sets up another epic showdown with the two-time defending champion Park Terrace Penguins next weekend. The win moved the Taz to 5-0 on the year.
Taz Head Coach Jason Brown was thrilled with his team’s performance. “Sierra is a top flight team,” said Brown. “We knew we would be tested today. I’m thrilled with how our swimmers responded to the challenge of some very fast Sharks today.”
Hannah Bensman, 17, and Eric Rohrer, 16, of the Taz led the men’s and women’s division with 21 points each. Spencer Harrison, 16, led the Sharks men with 15 points. Lauren Kott, 8, swept her three events to lead the Sharks women with 15 points.
This was the 18th regular season meeting between the clubs. The Taz has now won five straight victories in the series. Sierra defeated the Taz at Ponderosa High School in 2006 on their way to the SSL Dual Meet title.
Taz President Brett Jones said, “We look forward to this meet every year. This is really the premier summer swimming event in the greater EDH and Cameron Park communities. Our families all know each other. Many of the swimmers go to school together. I’d like to thank Sierra families for a great meet. They are great people, and they have some great swimmers.”
Randy Webb, president of the Sierra Sharks, was equally complimentary to the swimmers.
“Both teams swam hard and showed great sportsmanship,” said Webb. “Although we have a lot of new swimmers, I think they understood that this was a special meet for both teams and swam just a little bit harder. It’s fun to be poolside to see the high school swimmers renew their Oak Ridge and Ponderosa rivalries.”
“What I really like about this meet is the sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship,” said Taz Vice President Jack Peterson. “The families cheer in a positive way. You see the kids shaking hands after each race. They are genuinely happy for each other.”
Both EDH and Sierra have great legacies of sportsmanship. EDH earned the Suburban Swim League’s sportsmanship award last season. Sierra is a three-time winner of the award, including recognition in back to back seasons in 2006 and 2007.
Sharks coach Brianna James praised the effort of her team. “It meet was fun and all the kids swam hard,” said James. “We look forward to seeing the Taz again in a few weeks at champs.”
Taz swimmer Vanessa Moestopo was recognized at her final home appearance for the Taz after a seven-year career. Vanessa, 18, is a sophomore at the University of Pacific and is majoring in bioengineering.
The meet also featured an appearance by 12 Folsom Hills Special Olympics swimmers, including Kaeli Danciart, who attends Ponderosa High School. Kaeli, who competed in track and field at the recent Summer Games at UC Davis, swam both freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle relay event, which features swimmers from the Taz joining with Folsom Hills Special Olympians.
The local Folsom /El Dorado Hills community program serves over 130 athletes ranging in age from 8 to 63. Athletes have the opportunity to train and compete in basketball, track & field, bocce, swimming, softball, golf, power lifting and bowling.
“This means so much to those swimmers,” said Tom Sharp of the Taz, who coordinates the event. “We look forward to this every year. This has become a very special part of the season for us.”
The Taz 13-14 girls led the first charge in Event 5, the 100-yard IM. Kate McIntee, Sam Sruba, and Kylie Joachim swept the event to power the Taz to a nine-point lead. Bensman and teammate Annie Harriman, 17, finished one-two in the 17-18 girls event to stake the Taz to a 20-point lead after the individual medley series.
The Sharks and Taz swam evenly through the Medley Relay series. The Sharks 15-18 men, led by Spencer Harrison, 16, Travis Marshall, 15, Billy Kennedy, 15, and Riley Ruppenthal, 17, led a sweep of the final relay to close the gap to 15 after event 21. Sierra’s men would go on to sweep both 15-18 relay events.
EDH gradually worked the lead back to 28 before the Sharks led a furious rally. Zack Pickett, 15, Kennedy, and Sam Rackwitz, 15, swept the 15-16 men’s short free. Minutes later, Ruppenthal and teammate Frankie Kennedy, 17, finished one-two in the 17-18 men’s 50-freestyle. Sierra’s Delaney Lardie and Makenna Swars, both 8, finished one-two in the first event of the long freestyle series to cut the Taz lead to 6. Thomas Pipkin, 10, won the 9-10 boys Long Free in 34.01 to trim the lead to 5.
The Taz responded. Jack Davidson and Cole Tilley, 12, recovered room for the Taz with a one-two finish in the 11-12 boys long free. Davidson reached the wall in 1:05.26 with Tilley just 0.01 behind. Morgan Jones, 13, and Sruba finished one-two in the 13-14 girls race. Jones swam a blistering 56.61 time, just 0.16 off the 14-year old league mark set by EDH’s Suzanne Sudman.
Taz youngsters Mitchell Scott, 6, Nathan Roth, 6, and Marcos Medich, 5, swept the 6 and Under backstroke to put the Taz firmly in control with a 34-point lead at the midway point of the meet.
EDH travels to rival Park Terrace next weekend. Sierra returns home to face the College Greens Gators a the Cameron Park CSD. Both the Sharks and Taz will face off again at the SSL Championships, July 29-31, at Sierra College in Rocklin.