By Patty Pope
The El Dorado Hills Tasmanian Devils swim team shut down the Loomis Basin Dolphins on Saturday, July 21, at Del Oro High School, during the last regular meet of the Suburban Swim League season.
The victory and impressive final score of 464-325 granted Taz a perfect season record of 7-0. The Tasmanian Devils have been vying for a first place finish in the SSL since their last flawless season in 2008*.
“I have been so proud of our team this entire season,” said Taz president Brett Jones. “Our coaching staff has done a great job of preparing our swimmers for competition as well as focusing on sportsmanship. I was sitting with the league president the last few relays of our meet against Loomis. The meet was in hand, and he made the comment that we were really pouring it on. I gave him a quizzical look at which point he responded that he did not mean from a scoring standpoint, but from a sportsmanship standpoint. He pointed out that our Head Coach Jason, even with the meet decided, was at the blocks making sure all of our kids were shaking hands. His point was that we were doing everything right. That was the best compliment I received all year.”
Excellent coaches, dedicated families and top-ranking swimmers are exactly what attracted Dave Schwam and his family to swim with Taz. The Schwams — Halle, 7; Will, 4; and Alexa, 4 — started their swim team experience in a nearby community, but joined Taz three years ago.
“There’s no question that our former team is a competitive team, but the overall experience just wasn’t good,” explained Dave. “For example, the coaches weren’t in the water while giving instruction; they would coach the kids from the side of the pool. Other families, friends of ours, kept telling us how great Taz is.
“And that’s been our experience, too,” he continued. “We’ve found that Taz promotes great team spirit, excellent sportsmanship and the camaraderie is what it’s all about. Another El Dorado Hills family also moved to Taz from our previous team the same year, and they have described the exact thing.”
Bonnie Verner’s family — Daniel, 19 (graduated Taz swimmer), Josh, 17; and Hannah, 10 — have been with Taz for 11 years.
“Last year we left Taz because Josh wanted to swim with his high school coach on a team in the vicinity. At the time, coaching staff for Taz was in flux and Josh was trying to make an ‘All American’ cut in high school. Josh thought he’d have a better chance of making the cut with his high school coach, especially since we didn’t know who would be coaching for Taz,” Bonnie said. “But it just wasn’t the same. We came back to Taz this year for a few reasons. We heard that the coaches were great; we’ve found that to be true, too. And I think that Taz is better for the whole family because all the kids can swim. Taz is for swimmers of all levels. You don’t have to be a top swimmer, and you can work on your own goals.”
Bonnie further explained how pleased she was with their decision to return, saying, “There’s a built-in community, the team camaraderie goes along with individual success. I also like that our family can be at the same place, at the same time, instead of different activities in different locations. We live in El Dorado Hills; this is our home team and through Taz both kids and parents have their summer buddies to look forward to.”
Close bonds are evident not only between Taz swimmers and families, but Saturday’s meet was witness to hugs and handshakes between Devils and Dolphins. At the end of the girls 15-18 100-yard IM, Taz swimmer Annie Harriman, 18, and Courtney Weddle, 17, of the Dolphins reached across lanes and shared a lengthy hug that only best of friends can demonstrate. Annie and Courtney, and Courtney’s sister Amanda, 15, became friends through swimming years ago.
“We would see each other at ready bench each year, we’d talk and eventually became friends,” explained Annie.
“We would all go get something to eat after swim meets, and then our parents became best friends!” added Courtney and Amanda.
The girls’ friendships and competitive drive exist simultaneously.
“As we got older we also swam against each other in water polo, when it was Del Oro vs. Oak Ridge. We don’t really share words in the pool,” explained the friends. “We’re not mean; we just stay focused on the competition. It’s like we’re enemies in the water, and then friends once we’re outside the pool. Just because you’re on other teams doesn’t mean you can’t be friends!” T
Though the regular swim season is over and Annie and Courtney have graduated high school, they will continue their friendship through swimming in the Jr. Olympics.
In the pool Saturday Taz points added up and standing records were shattered. Eight-year-old swimmer Patrick Sammon set a new club record of 14:15 in Event 23, the boys 7-8 25-yard freestyle.
“It’s been a great season,” remarked head coach Jason Brown at the end of relays. “I credit all of the swimmers, and I thank all of the families, the board members and the coaches for swimming hard and supporting our team. ut let’s all remember, achieving a 7-0 record isn’t the end for us. We need to stay focused on Champs; that’s our goal!”
Friday, July 27, through Sunday, July 29, the Taz will attempt to capture first place at the Suburban Swim League Championship Meet at Sierra College in Rocklin. All SSL teams will compete at Champs, including renowned archrivals The Tasmanian Devils and The Park Terrace Penguins. Since 2000, both teams have claimed first place at Champs six times.
“Champs will be a battle this year. We have to be very careful. In 2001 and 2004 we finished undefeated during the regular season only to lose to Park Terrace at Champs,” cautioned Jones.
It’s been four years since the Tasmanian Devils brought a Champs first place victory home to El Dorado Hills.
*2008 was very unique in that it was a season riddled by fires in California. As a result of the smoke, many swim practices were canceled, as well as two meets (Folsom Sea Otters and Sierra Sharks). Taz finished 4-0 that year, with the previous full season Taz went undefeated being 2005.