Rio Mesa boys’ swim team has won 86 straight league meets

Boy is swimming.
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 © Michael Coons/Acorn Newspapers
Troy Fukutomi and the Rio Mesa High boys’ swim team have won 86 consecutive Pacific View League meets. The Spartans take on Channel Islands at 3 p.m. today at home in a league meet. © Michael Coons/Acorn Newspapers
The streak is alive.

A close call, however, made life a little more interesting for the Rio Mesa High boys’ swim team.

The Spartans won their 86th consecutive Pacific View League meet last week, 93-77, against a resurgent Camarillo squad. It was one of the closest finishes during the streak.

Head coach Keith McKnett had been fretting about the streak for an entire year.

“I thought this could be the year the streak ends,” McKnett said. “It’s not going to go forever.”

Rio Mesa still has to get by Channel Islands, Hueneme and Pacifica before hunkering down for the league championships on April 30 and May 2 at the RMHS pool. The Spartans (5-0 overall, 2-0 in league) battle Channel Islands at 3 p.m. today at home.

At this juncture, it looks like Rio Mesa’s streak is safe for at least one more spring.

The Spartans field one of their youngest, least experienced squads in recent memory. They graduated 12 seniors, not including standout Caulim Silber, who moved out of the county. Sophomores make up the majority of the varsity squad.

“Last year we were so deep,” the coach said. “Right now, it’s a lot of fun . . . and stressful.”

McKnett explained why he’s been so anxious.

“I’m a competitor. I want to win,” the coach said. “We have a good tradition that we’ve built. Kids are aware of it. No one wants to be associated with the team that loses (the streak). We’re very proud here, and we have a chip on our shoulder a little bit.”

The coach praised junior Austin Hammond (first), sophomore Joe Tinoco (third) and junior Troy Fukutomi (fourth) for stepping up during the 100-yard butterfly against Camarillo. McKnett made a calculating decision to split his 200 freestyle relay teams, which took first and second.

David Beauvais, a senior captain, also stepped up with a pivotal win in the 100 breaststroke in a personal record of 1 minute, 4.5 seconds. It all led to a clutch team win against the Scorpions.

“That was pretty awesome,” Beauvais said. “The week before, I prepared a lot. Eat right, go to practice focused.”

Beauvais’ water polo and swim teams have never lost any league games or meets in his four years.

“It means a lot to me,” the captain said. “It motivates the seniors to go the extra mile in practice and win. . . .

“We need to play at a higher level. We’re held to a higher standard. That forces us to work harder. The varsity before us set the bar very high, and we want to continue that legacy.”

Beauvais was team MVP for the water polo team this fall. The set defender is considering attending Oxnard College and suiting up for the aquatics teams at Ventura College.

Josue Cornejo is another senior captain.

Cornejo, a water polo captain, competes in the 50 freestyle (23:00) and 100 freestyle (53:00), and he boosts the 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.

The Spartan takes pride in rallying the troops.

“I like helping people out,” Cornejo said. “I like being around the team. I like motivating people.”

The captain trains with the Oxnard Fire Explorers—he wants to be a firefighter.

Hammond established a personal record in the 100 butterfly in 56.54 seconds at the Ventura County Championships last month. He also competes in the 200 freestyle (1:51), the 200 individual medley (2:09), the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 freestyle relay.

“We’re all really talented and we’re doing well in league,” Hammond said. “It was close with Camarillo. They have some really good swimmers. We just had more depth.”

Hammond, an honors student and driver for the water polo squad, wants to qualify for the section finals in the butterfly.

Artyem Shander excels in the 200 IM (2:11), 100 backstroke (1:01), and 50 freestyle (23:00). The sophomore also contributes in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

“We’re really competitive,” Shander said. “We strive for our goals, and we never back down.”

Shander said the Spartans felt good after defeating the Scorpions.

“It’s really rewarding when you work hard and it pays off,” he said.

Shander, a water polo sprinter, said he’s considering playing volleyball next year. His mother, Jenny, played for Kazakhstan’s national women’s volleyball team.

Thomas Bunker is a talented distance specialist.

The sophomore thrives in the 200 freestyle (1:48) and the 500 freestyle (4:53). He’s still perfecting his butterfly stroke.

“You have to come to practice every day and try your hardest in order to improve,” said Bunker, who also plays water polo. “You have to try really hard. Training is what gets you through.”

Sophomores Zach Morris (distance), Zander Lyskin (sprints) and Tyler Nesbit (sprints) provide hope for the future. Seniors Ty Herbruck (backstroke, 100 freestyle) and Chandler Pacl (backstroke) and junior Dean Ogawa (backstroke) bolster the Spartans.

McKnett said Rio Mesa Swim Club coach Bill Oliver has been instrumental in the program’s success.

“This team has a lot of motivated and dedicated kids,” Beauvais said. “I’m impressed with how far they’ve come.”

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