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Rio Mesa’s league dominance dates back to Clinton presidency

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 © Richard Gillard/Acorn Newspapers
Rio Mesa High’s Nick Vallejo works on his butterfly technique during Wednesday’s practice. The Spartan boys have won 78 consecutive Pacific View League meets. © Richard Gillard/Acorn Newspapers
The Spartans have ruled the Pacific View League longer than the Roman Empire reign.All roads lead to Rome, but to rule the pool, one must go through Rio Mesa High boys’ swim team.

Since the formation of the Pacific View, Rio Mesa has never lost a league meet.

When the Spartans’ streak of 78 straight league wins started in 1999, Bill Clinton was still president, Napster had yet to debut, Lance Armstrong was just another dude on a bicycle who didn’t win the Tour de France and a gallon of gas cost $1.17.

“Some day,” said head coach Keith McKnett, “it’s got to end.”

In the meantime, the Spartans will try to continue dominating PVL swim meets.

“They have to stay hungry,” McKnett said, “and not assume we’re going to win. We’re the big bad wolf in this league, and everyone wants to beat us.”

Rio Mesa kicks off this season with the Spartan Relays today at 2 p.m. at home. The first PVL dual is Fri., March 23 against Camarillo at home.

Nick Vallejo, Kenny Compton and Kyle Walthall propel Rio Mesa’s boys.

Vallejo’s trying to keep it cool for the gang—he brought cookies for his teammates after Tuesday’s practice.

The senior Spartan is a versatile and dynamic swimmer.

Vallejo’s a threat in nearly every event, including the 100-yard backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 50 freestyle. He’s also part of a school-record quartet in the 200 medley relay.

“It’s my last year,” Vallejo said. “I’m going to try to make the best of it.

“We lost a lot of guys. Some were burned out, some graduated. We lost some good swimmers. There are only a handful of returners. It’s been hard.”

McKnett said five potential senior swimmers decided not to participate this spring.

“Same thing happened last year,” the coach said. “It’s part of it. You expect it.”

Vallejo said he’s focusing on the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly.

In between school and swim, the Spartan also works at the Ventura Aquatic Center as a lifeguard and teaching swim lessons.

Vallejo finds motivation from his grandparents Clamencia and Daniel Vallejo, who recently passed away.

He also thanked his father, Dan, for his unwavering support.

After Vallejo’s 5 to 7 a.m. practice, Dan Vallejo drops off breakfast for his son before rushing to work.

“He does so much,” Nick Vallejo said. “He’s a great dad.”

Vallejo has a chance to set the school record in the 100 freestyle, McKnett said.

Compton is a solid distance swimmer.

The senior excels in the 500 and 200 freestyles, and he’s also a key cog in the 400 and 200 freestyle relays.

Compton’s personal record in the 500 is 4 minutes, 54 seconds, a Pacific View record set during last spring’s championships.

“I’ve done a lot of cardio training,” Compton said. “This year I’m focusing on endurance.

“Swimming can be a specialized sport, but it’s good to be (versatile). I’ve practiced all-around technique strokes.”

Compton, who played water polo for two seasons, said he wants to study economics in a Northern California university. His top choice right now is UC Santa Cruz.

The Spartan wants to keep the winning streak alive.

“I’ve really enjoyed all four years swimming here,” Compton said. “There’s good coaching. It’s a serious program—and we’re a force to be reckoned with in Ventura County.”

A starting goalkeeper for the section championship water polo team in the fall, Walthall holds a RMHS record in the 100 breaststroke at 59.69 seconds.

Walthall is also a threat in the 200 individual medley and 200 medley relay, sharing the school’s fastest time with Vallejo.

“I’m looking forward to a great season,” Walthall said. “Our guys are looking good. Guys are working hard.”

The senior co-captain said the key to the breaststroke is power.

“You need more power than finesse,” he said.

Walthall will swim and study business at York College of Pennsylvania.

Andres Sandoval shares the captaincy with Walthall.

Sandoval, a senior, excels in the 500 and 200 freestyle races.

Sophomore Caulin Silber is a rising star who thrives in the 100 backstroke and 50 freestyle.

A strong sprinter, Tanner Markham is a “coach’s dream,” McKnett said.

“He’s a big piece of this team,” the coach added.

Senior Zybe DeForest and junior Ty Herbruck excel in the backstroke.

Rio Mesa spent the preseason working on technique, relay starts, dives and understanding the rules.

“ They put a smile on my face,” McKnett said. “I like these guys a lot.”

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