HANFORD — The Sierra Pacific boys and girls swim teams are both having about as perfect seasons as one could hope. They furthered that on Thursday with the boys winning 98-38 and the girls 106-59 over East Sequoia League rival Corcoran.
The boys and girls teams also moved to a perfect 4-0 in the ESL and won 21 of 22 events at the Hanford West pool. Before swimmers lined up and jumped into the pool for their events, Sierra Pacific honored its four seniors for Senior Night.
“Senior Night’s big for us because we’re such a small-knit group,” Sierra Pacific coach Jessica Bean said. “[The seniors] helped build the program, they’ve put in lots of blood, sweat and tears, and they work so hard. It makes me proud to come out here every day and work with them.”
The seniors this year are Kylie Sheela, Michael Mason, Ryan Holland and Ethan Enquist. Bean said a few words about each senior and read a prepared statement from each one of them where they thanked their teammates, coach and family.
“I’ve known Jessica for the past six years, so it’s just really nice to be able to have a final meet,” Mason, a four-year varsity swimmer, said. “I’ve been swimming with her since I was in seventh grade because I used to come out here before I was even in high school to come practice with the team.”
Holland called Senior Night a “rush” and said it was surreal that it was their final home meet. Sheela added it was hard for her to put into words what her final home meet meant to her other than “a lot.”
And then came the swimming. The girls 200 yard medley relay was up first and Sierra Pacific wasted no time getting on the board with its first win of the day. The team of Vanessa Lloyd, Hailey McGaha, Rylee Lord and Emma Enquist posted a time of 2:06.99 — over eight seconds better than second place.
In the 200 yard free, Victoria Blanchard took first with a time of 2:17.93 and automatically qualified for Valley. Bean and Blanchard shared a high-five with coach happily exclaiming, “Finally!”
Lord followed in Blanchard’s footsteps not too long after by qualifying for Valley in the girls 50 yard free. Her time of 26.47 was also good for first. Lord also finished first in the girls 100 yard free (58.49).
“For middle of the season, they’re not resting at all,” Bean said. “We’re looking for time improvements and for kids to keep making Valley.”
Bean wants 80 percent of her team to be there in attendance and said they’re continuing to strive toward that goal, but is proud of where they’re currently at.
Each of the seniors won at least one event with many of them winning multiple ones. Sheela placed first in the girls 500 yard free with a time of 6:43.86. Second place finished almost a minute after her. She also finished first in the girls 200 yard free relay (2:02.90).
Holland won the boys 50 yard free (24.93) and 200 yard free relay (1:52.26). Mason took first in the boys 200 yard medley relay and 100 yard breast (1:07.71). Enquist was also part of the first-place 200 yard medley relay and finished ahead of everyone in the 100 yard back (1:01.94).
Emma and Drake Sheela both made times good enough for Valley consideration. Emma in the 100 yard fly (1:12.81) and Drake in the boys 100 yard free (55.56).
The most fun came during the final event of the evening — the boys 400 yard free relay. Before the event, the boys put on the girls suits to have some fun in their final event at home.
“We were just having fun today. That’s why we dressed up in the girls suits,” Enquist, who will be swimming at Ventura College next year, said. “We asked our coach if we could do it and [the] consensus was we did it. It was just fun.”
The only event Sierra Pacific didn’t win was the girls 100 yard back where Corcoran’s Maya Cruz edged Blanchard by 0.76 seconds. But 21 out of 22 isn’t bad and the success for the Golden Bears has been the result of hard work.
“All these kids that are there, they’ve been putting in two hours a day Monday through Friday, sometimes even Saturday,” Holland said. “I feel like we’ve all earned this. We’ve all put in the effort, the time, so it’s starting to show.”
On winning their final home meet, Sheela said it was awesome, but also enjoyed the part where her opponents were competing their hardest against her and she was able to reach over and say ‘Good job, good swim’ after each event.
“I love everybody on the team and everybody’s such a good sport about everything,” Sheela said. “This whole year has been absolutely fantastic.”
The girls and boys are currently in the race for league championships and sitting in first. The girls team won in 2014 and 2016, but the boys have never captured a league title, something they’re determined and focused on winning this year.
The Golden Bears will face Granite Hills next Thursday on the road at 4 p.m. The Grizzlies boys team is also undefeated, which should make for a good matchup.
“There’s a lot of teams that are coming up that have some speed,” Bean said. “We’re not looking past anybody. It’s one meet at a time.”