Spartan heading to hall of fame

The man is smiling.
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Keith McKnett, a veteran aquatics coach at Rio Mesa High, will be inducted into the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame.

McKnett will be honored with fellow Hall of Fame newcomers Jessica Mendoza, Ruth Guthrie, Mari Holden and Fred Nagelschmidt during a banquet at the Ventura Beach Marriott Hotel on Sunday.

“It’s humbling to be in that company,” said McKnett, who started coaching with the Spartans in 2001.

McKnett, 40, has helped build Rio Mesa into an aquatics powerhouse.

His girls’ water polo teams have accumulated 10 Pacific View League titles and more than 250 victories, and he’s reached two section championship games, in 2009 and 2010. His swim squads have won 14 league crowns.

During McKnett’s first year as water polo coach, Rio Mesa and Malibu battled in a last-place tournament match. The Spartans won in overtime.

“We were the two worst teams in the county, arguably, at that time—or at least at that tournament,” McKnett said. “Now we’re competing.

“It’s been fun to see the progress.”

A 1990 Buena High graduate, McKnett swam and played water polo in high school and at Ventura College. He played club water polo at Chico State, and he later earned a master’s degree and teaching credential at Cal State Northridge.

McKnett teaches earth science and health at RMHS. He and his wife, Rachel, have been married for 12 years, and they have two daughters, Talia and Teagan.

The Spartan thanked Rio Mesa swim coach and boys’ water polo coach Derrick Timmons, Rio Mesa Swim Club coach Bill Oliver and Pleasant Valley Swim Team coach Tim Hedrick for helping him succeed.

McKnett is also grateful for the support from his father, Tom McKnett.

“My dad is a big inspiration to me,” Keith McKnett said. “He’s at every game. He’s at almost all the swim meets. When I played at Ventura College, sometimes he’d be the only person in the stands at some of those games. He still comes to my games like I’m a kid still.”

—Eliav Appelbaum

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