DV Swim makes their mark at leagues

Dougherty’s Varsity Swim Team made a strong showing at their first league championship in the East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) with many swimmers qualifying for finals, warranting a positive outlook for the end of the 2017 season as the team moves on to NCS and states.

The meet, which was held at the Robert Livermore Aquatic Center on May 5 and 6, was an overall success for the Wildcats. The strength of Dougherty’s swim team has only increased over the years, and going into the EBAL championship, the Men’s Team was undefeated 5-0 despite the transition to a more competitive league.

During the preliminary competition on May 5, many on the team qualified for the second day of finals, placing top 16 within their events. Memorable moments included the 100-yard butterfly, when senior captain Michael Yao, junior Apoorva Sharma, sophomore Chaitha Dasari and freshman Ryan Park swam their way into the top 16, with Yao, Sharma and Dasari taking up three of the eight spots in the championship final and Sharma lowering the team record to a 53.23. Shortly afterwards, junior Tim Yao clocked in at a team record-breaking 4:40.80 in his 500-yard freestyle, placing fifth going into finals. The Wildcats’ strengths once again showed through when four swimmers — junior Ken Suhaili, sophomores Mattias Blanco and freshman Warren Hsiao — qualified for finals in the 100-yard backstroke, with Blanco seeded third going into the second day.

“Standout races were Tim Yao’s 500 … all of 100 free because we got four boys in the 100 free final,” noted Coach Ethan Schnell. “We also got four boys in the 100 back final.”

When the team returned the second day for finals, expectations were high. Early in the meet, the 200-yard medley relay team consisting of Sharma, Dasari, Blanco and Hsiao took fourth in a close race — trailing Dublin, San Ramon Valley and Foothill by less than a second — and started off the day on a strong note. During the 100-yard butterfly final, Sharma, Dasari and Michael Yao placed sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.

“After the first fifty [yards], my mindset was, ‘Just try to keep moving forward, don’t tighten up … make sure to get to the wall first,’” said Sharma.

Michael Yao stated, “Honestly, I wasn’t really looking at the rest of the competition. In swimming, you have to focus on your own race. Not a lot goes through your mind, you just blank out and let your body take the lead.”

During the 500-yard freestyle final, Tim Yao placed fifth, adding from his prelim time but narrowly retaining his position within the heat. Yao held off friend and rival, California High junior Alex Suehiro, for most of the hard-fought race.

“I really didn’t want to let that guy beat me,” said Yao.

Not too long afterwards, the Men’s 100-yard backstroke final saw Blanco and Hsiao place fifth and sixth respectively.

“My turns were pretty good, under-waters were good,” said Blanco, after his race. “I think I’m missing a lot of speed, but that will come with taper. My goal [for NCS] is to make at least one A-Final and to make one Junior National cut.”

On the women’s side, junior Nawoo Kim narrowly placed second with a time of 1:07.19.

“Our team is having a strong performance this meet,” stated Michael Yao. “And the fact that a lot of us aren’t rested or fully tapered for this meet, going into NCS, we have a good chance to make a strong team performance.”

“I felt they swam much better in trials on Friday than they did on Saturday … but overall I’m proud of how well they were able to deal with the new league, coming from DFAL,” said Schnell.

When the points were tallied, the men came in at third, behind the Foothill Falcons by just half a point. Meanwhile, the women’s team tied for fifth with Amador Valley High School.

Based on their performances at EBALs, many members of the team, as well as Coach Schnell, have a positive outlook for the end of the season, as NCS qualifiers move on to the NCS meet on May 12 and 13. From there, the Wildcats hope to be able to send swimmers to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) state championship on May 19 and 20.

“Our outlook for NCS is that five of the six relays can final, three of the six in the top eight,” said Schnell. “We have a good chance to have most of the swimmers make the second day.”