The situation was dire, but clear as the iridescent blue water contained within the Oakdale Aquatic Center on April 19.
To clutch an edge of the Valley Oak League banner, Oakdale High’s girls swimming team needed to break away from a four-way tie and defeat longtime conference rival, Sonora, during the last conference meet of the season.
Victories in every race took care of that.
The Lady Mustangs stunned Sonora with a complete 10-event sweep to surpass the Wildcats 92-78 and earn a co-VOL championship with Ripon.
The Oakdale boys didn’t need the same dramatics, but trounced Sonora 99-71 to claim an undefeated conference crown.
“This was the best boys team I have had, in terms of depth, enjoyment and character,” Oakdale coach Russ Van Cleave said. “It was also a really good year for the girls, who lost some good seniors from last year, but found a way to win two of three close meets.”
The girls beat Ripon 89-81 to start the year, in what ultimately was the showdown of the VOL’s top two programs. Ripon would go undefeated against the rest of the conference and cruise with a 102-68 score past the same Sierra team that upset Oakdale (85-84) to force the four-way tie.
Sonora beat Sierra to make it an even race, but couldn’t match the strength of Mustang swimmers who would not be beat.
It’s a tradition of success encompassed in the feats of OHS relay teams for both genders. In a stunning array of competition, Oakdale’s boys and girls relay teams have combined for a brilliant 48-0 stanza of VOL wins.
Adam Lahey, Soren Dickens, Ryan Jones, and Will Cavanaugh combined to win the 200 yard medley relay while Ben Kirby, Lahey, Dickens and Cavanaugh rallied to win the 200 freestyle relay. Lahey, Dickens, Jones and Cavanaugh won the 400 free relay as well.
Jones also won the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke while Dickens won the 200 individual medley, Cavanaugh the 100 free, Lahey the 500 free and Joe Guererro the 100 breast.
The OHS girls were led by a combination of Ali Poff, Summer Thompson, Katie Vanderburg and Caitlin Golding in the winning 200 medley relay. Vanderburg, Golding, Shelby Stender and Poff claimed top honor in the 200 free relay while the 400 free relay was won by Vanderburg, Golding, Stender and Thompson.
In individual events, Stender sped to wins in both the 200 free and 500 free. Poff stretched to win the 100 free and 50 free while Thompson won the 200 I.M. and 100 breast. Vanderburg rounded out the wins with a first place finish in the 100 fly.
Oakdale hosts the VOL Championship meet on Saturday, April 27. The event does not affect the completed conference title race, but represents the final shot for swimmers to qualify for the May 9-10 Sac-Joaquin Section Trials.