Santa Rosa High swim coach Ericka Richards has seen it before. Spectators, and sometimes even competitors, will stop what they are doing and watch her two fastest athletes rip through the water.
“It’s fun to hear the other teams watch David and Megan,” she said. “It’s ‘Wow, look how fast they are.’”
David is David Mertz, the ultrafast junior who will race in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, plus a couple of relays, to pace the Panthers’ boys team.
Megan is Megan Jones, the ultrafast junior who will race in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, plus a couple of relays, to pace the Panthers’ girls team.
Mertz and Jones are like mirror images of each other — at least in their dominating swim performances. And it has been Mertz and Jones who for the past three years have paced the Panthers in the pool.
Santa Rosa went undefeated in dual meets this season and is looking to win a third consecutive North Bay League pennant for both the boys and girls teams at the NBL championship meet starting Friday at Santa Rosa Junior College.
“I think the team pennant is the most important thing. It’s one of my main motivations for doing it,” Mertz said.
“It” is suiting up for the Panthers when his plate is pretty full with his club swimming schedule with the Santa Rosa Neptunes. Jones, also a club swimmer, strikes the same balance.
“I feel like there is a lot of pride in our team,” she said of the Panthers. “It means something at this point. A lot of people are swimming; they are invested in the team. We are fast and we are good and we need to prove that.”
The Panthers have already proven they are fast with their perfect mark in dual meets. But challengers lurk.
The Montgomery girls squad is tough, as is the Ukiah boys team.
And while lots of fast times have been posted to get into the main event Friday and Saturday, you can’t win until you race.
And the key to winning a third pennant in a row, according to Mertz?
“All of the relays are going to be big,” he said. “Those are definitely going to be some of the big things to watch.”
Jones agreed. On the girls side, she said technique and discipline in the relay races may prove to be the difference maker.
“Relay races are always key because they are double the points,” Richards said.
A crucial race may be the 200-yard freestyle relay, in which Maria Carrillo’s foursome comes in with a time of 1:49.50 and Santa Rosa posted a 1:49.73.
Jones’ qualifying time in the 200-yard freestyle is 2:02.41. The next fastest time in the 200-yard freestyle is Maria Carrillo’s Lauren Morris at 2:07.45.
In the girls 200-yard medley, Montgomery’s Julie Kwan is the swimmer to beat, coming in with a 2:11.37, followed by fellow Viking Tessa Oliver’s 2:14.87 and Maria Carrillo’s Taylor Scobey at 2:15.14.
In the girls 50-yard freestyle, Cardinal Newman’s Grace Sorenson has the best time coming in with a 25.93.
Right behind her are Riley Fette of Montgomery at 26.73 and Hannah Tan of Maria Carrillo at 26.89.