Everything looks different at the North Coast Section swimming championships. Athletes seem to swim faster, crowds seem to cheer louder. But the pool looking longer? That’s a new one.
For Kelseyville’s Nick Dobusch and Max Madrzyk, the pool at Las Positas College in Livermore is in fact longer than the pool the Knights use to train. Three yards longer, in fact.
The Knights for the last few years have used a community pool not built for racing, not designed for training and not terribly conducive to building fast swimmers. But the Knights are building fast swimmers despite it all.
“It’s a 22-yard pool and we are only authorized to use it four days a week,” Kelseyville swim coach Agustin Merodio said. “It’s a four-foot pool, no lanes, no lines at the bottom.”
“We can’t do race starts. We have no diving blocks,” he said. “At our dual meets I’m always joking, ‘We’ll teach you how to dive today.’ It’s kind of like a ‘Bad News Bears’ type of thing.”
And still, Dobusch, a sophomore, and Madrzyk, a junior, have earned spots at the NCS championship meet this weekend, along with a group of other local swimmers. Dobusch is the highest local seed in the 100-yard butterfly at 19th, while also making it in the 100-yard backstroke, where he is seeded 30th. Madrzyk is the 36th seed in the 50-yard freestyle.
While racing in a pool three yards longer than the one he trains in — especially in a 50-yard sprint — might be a tall order for Madrzyk, the meet will be no cakewalk for the rest of the local swimmers who qualified to compete starting Friday.
The 40 fastest times in qualifying league meets earned a spot in the NCS meet and only the top 16 advance to Saturday. The top eight swim in the A final and 9-16 swim in the B final.
“Making the finals in NCS is a really tough thing to do,” said Maria Carrillo coach Rick Niles.
But a good number of locals have a shot at doing just that.
Montgomery junior Julie Kwan is seeded highest among area swimmers in any race, having grabbed the fourth seed in the 200-yard individual medley. Also in the mix in that race are Maria Carrillo junior Taylor Scobey at 18th, Montgomery junior Tessa Oliver at 19th, Fort Bragg junior Haley Hutchinson at 24th and Santa Rosa senior Rachel Pride at 33rd.
“She will come up and surprise people. She is a fighter,” Montgomery coach Donita Flecker said of Kwan. “She can get up there, quiet, and not really noticeable, but boom — when the timer goes off, she explodes off the block. She is very competitive.”
And Niles likes Scobey’s chance in the 200-yard medley, in part because she flew at the North Bay League finals last weekend.
“She did drop five seconds from her season best,” he said. “She popped out a pretty good one.”
“She’s a gamer, especially on that last 50,” he said.
Despite her terrific seed, Kwan might have more than the competition to stare down this weekend. Felled by the flu Sunday, she did not train Monday or Tuesday.
“Being sick reminds me how much I love swimming,” she said.
“I’d like to get to the A final,” she said. “I think I have a pretty good shot. We’ll see how it goes.”