Coach: Russ Van Cleave (fourth season)
Key Returning Swimmers: Boys - JR Hank Walter (free/back), JR Brandon Terwilliger (free/back), JR Braden Lee (free), JR Robert Winders (fly/free), JR Neal Cadra (breast), SO Ryan Jones (I.M./fly). Girls - SR Kelsey Knollmueller (free), SO Katie Vanderburg (free/fly), JR Stevie Cordoza (breast/back), SO Allison Poff (free/back)
Key New Swimmers: Boys - JR Casey Whitley (free)
Team Strength: Oakdale is incredibly junior strong, and will build the foundation for an even stronger season in 2012. The team is very good at relays, and could see some of the fastest times in school history this year. Oakdale is deep and talented, and should see continued improvements in each event as the season progresses and intra-squad competition gets fierce.
VOL Outlook: The Oakdale girls beat Sierra and Sonora to claim a league title last year, and should have a good chance at a repeat if they can swim well in conference meets this year. Oakdale boys survived their first tough meet with Ripon, and will challenge defending champs Sonora before an expected big showing at the league championship tournament at the end of the year.
Fast Fact: Whitley is a bit of a natural phenom. The first-year prep swimmer and water polo player has already turned in 25-second 50 free times, and could develop into one of the best swimmers in the league.
If Oakdale High athletes dominate competition in the Valley Oak League on dry land, it only makes sense that they would do the same in the water.
This year, that water has settled into the sparkling new Oakdale Aquatic Center on the OHS campus, and Mustang swimmers know just how to break in the new venue — with wins.
Oakdale boys and girls landed victories over Valley Oak League newcomers, Ripon, on Friday, and are poised to battle for the league’s top honors for another season in the pool. Oakdale teams were 17-1 against conference opponents last year.
“I think we are going to have a good season,” Oakdale coach Russ Van Cleave said. “The new facility has allowed our boys and girls to be in the pool at the same time, and allowed us to add running each day before practice.”
The Oakdale girls, fresh off an impressive romp through league play and a VOL championship, landed a 101-66 win over Ripon last week to kick off conference action. The boys, who fell to Sonora in a tight dual but beat those same Wildcats in the championship tournament last year, squeezed by Ripon in an 88-77 score.
In both cases, Oakdale’s dominant relay teams really made the difference.
Oakdale’s 200-meter medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 400 free relay teams all landed first place finishes in the run of six boys and girls races.
Allison Poff (100 free, 50 free), Stevie Cordoza (200 Individual Medley, 100 backstroke) and Kenzie Schneider (100 I.M., 50 butterfly) all landed two race wins each for the Lady Mustangs. Kelsey Knollmueller (200 free), Rhonda Vanderburg (500 free), Vanna Talamantes (50 back), Kendyl Burford (50 breaststroke) and Alissa Burford (100 breast) also won races.
The Oakdale boys saw individual wins from Neal Cadra (100 breast), Hank Walter (100 back), Will Cavanaugh (100 free) and Casey Whitley (50 free).
Oakdale girls should see some challenges in VOL action, but could easily come away with a second straight league title if their relays keep up a strong pace and individuals can continue to dominate their events. The Mustangs are deep in most events, but Oakdale’s strong relay teams will likely anchor most key wins this season.
Current Oakdale swimmers played a part in some historic times in 2010, and accounted for school records in both the 200 and 400 girls freestyle relays. Poff, Vanderburg, Knollmueller and Cordoza were a big part of those marks, and should see their times continue to improve as the year swims on.
“It’s one of those things where you get four people on a relay team and they want to leave their mark,” Van Cleave said. “Swimming sometimes doesn’t seem like a team sport, but in a relay situation where the kids are all working to get faster and work towards leaving a legacy when their careers are up, it’s really neat.”
Walter, Cadra, Ryan Jones and Robert Winders landed the school’s fifth-best time in the 200 medley relay and are all back for another season in the pool.
Van Cleave has added Oakdale Gators coach Brian Fogarty to his coaching staff, to join other assistants Melissa Myer and Tim Boyle.