Rio Mesa’s Vallejo takes a run at the past

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Hunter Virant
Hunter Virant

Rio Mesa High swimmer Nick Vallejo is focused not only on the present, but on the past. He’s so fast, he is chasing the school record in the 100-yard freestyle that has stood since 1985.

Roland Zschiegner turned a 47.23 second effort, one of the oldest school records.

Vallejo. a junior, turned in a 48.7 against Buena and clocked 49.1 in the 100 freestyle against Villanova, boosting his confidence during the first month of the season.

Vallejo is on a mission to be a record holder.

He has dropped two seconds off his time from 2010 and the coaching staff believes he will become faster in the future.

Last week against Ventura, Vallejo won his 100 freestyle race in 50.10.

“The fact he’s so fast so early in the season is significant,” said Rio Mesa coach Keith McKnett. “He still has correctable mistakes. He’s a smart athlete and intelligent kid.

“He’s consistently going fast. We find its exciting, he’s the knock ’em dead, go-to guy who can guarantee a win.”

He’s only been swimming since his freshman year when he was doing the 400 and 200 freestyle relay races.

Last season, he earned team co-MVP honors as he competed in the 100 freestyle (51.0) and 100 backstroke (59.01).

“It was exciting to be the MVP,” he said.

He came to Rio Mesa as a water polo player from the Titans Club.

He was a member of the junior varsity team his first two seasons when the Spartans varsity was CIF-Southern Section finalists, but this past season he stayed away from water polo to concentrate on swimming.

McKnett said he discovered that Vallejo had a real good kick.

“He has done so well, 90 percent of it is mental,” said the Spartans coach,

“He comes so prepared. He has a game face. He knows how to warm up and he’s ready to rock,” said McKnett.

Vallejo, 16, credits his Rio Mesa Swim Club coach Bill Oliver.

“It’s little things like a turn or a stroke,” said Vallejo.

“It does make a big difference.”

Vallejo said he trains Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. before school.

“The hardest part is waking up,” he said.

In the classroom, he enjoys science and English classes.

Vallejo hopes to earn a swimming scholarship for college.

His other plan, if that doesn’t happen, is to attend Ventura College and swim for Coach Larry Baratte.

Vallejo said the 100 freestyle is his favorite event.

He also is swimming the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

“I have pretty strong strokes in the fly,” he said. “It’s good to have a variety of strokes.”

The 6-foot-1, 158-pound Vallejo has been a part of two Pacific View League swimming championship teams.

The all-around talented boys and girls swimming program has jumped from CIF Division 3 to Division 2 this season for the preliminaries and finals.

Chris Moody, the Spartans JV swim coach, marvels of Vallejo’s talent.

“He has an amazing attitude,” said Moody.

“He has long arms and a big build,” said Moody perfect for swimming and water polo.Vallejo said he was always a good defensive player in water polo with steals and blocks. He was also a sprinter.

Water polo coach Derrick Timmons hopes to get Vallejo back for his senior season. The Spartans were 2010 CIF water polo champions.

Now Timmons has seen the swimmer blossom.

“He has raw talent,” said Timmons.

He’s refining his strokes.

Vallejo is the son of Oxnard’s Dan and Nancy Vallejo. He has an older sister Christine, 21, who attends Oxnard College. Brother Joseph, 10, swims for the Rio Mesa Club.

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