Championship banners hang from the rafters of Camarillo High’s gym.
A plethora of league titles adorn the banners, which showcase each sports team’s accomplishments over the years.
One flag, however, remained blank.
“Coming in and not having a year on the banner kind of discouraged us,” said senior Tyler Nguyen, a 100-yard backstroke specialist on the boys’ swim team.
Fellow senior David Gatchel, a team co-captain who excels in distance freestyle races, said it cast a shadow over the program.
“Before people would see the empty banner and people would think the team wasn’t very strong,” Gatchel said. “Ever since I was a freshman, I’d look at the empty banner.”
This season will go into the history books, and four digits will be added to the lonely banner.
The Scorpions won their first league title in school history this season. The squad finished 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the Coastal Canyon League.
Camarillo dominated Moorpark, Royal and Calabasas for the inaugural league crown, taking first place at league finals on May 7 at Rancho Simi Community Park pool with 534 points. Calabasas was a distant second at 444, followed by Moorpark (307) and Royal (199).
“It feels amazing because it’s my senior year,” said senior co-captain Kadin Mello, a 100 butterfly swimmer. “We didn’t know what other teams (in the league) could do, so we were going into the dark and wondering what they had.”
The Scorpions knew they would face tough competitors, but they didn’t know how their lineup would fare in unknown territory.
Several Camarillo swimmers saw potential after their first league win against Royal on March 11 at home. More Scorpions started to believe after they toppled Moorpark on the road a week later.
“After we beat Moorpark we knew we had a chance at league, so we started aiming for that goal,” junior Timothy Lee said.
The Scorpions continued to rattle off league wins and completed a perfect regular season. Camarillo participated in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 finals, taking 14th out of the 43 schools participating at the meet.
Head coach Colin Hedrick, a 2010 Camarillo High graduate, said the team’s solid lineup was the difference this season.
“In the past there was depth with the team, but it was mostly to fill out the lanes for our races,” the first-year head coach said. “What set us apart this year was how fast our depth was. It wasn’t just a warm body in a lane. It was a kid in a lane that knew he was going to score some points. That’s what set us up.
“We had well-conditioned depth.”
Gatchel, Mello and fellow seniors Joseph Kim, George King, Michael Hiji, Brandon Pillado and Andrea Parodi led the Scorpions in the pool.
Kim excels in the 100 breaststroke while King tacked on points in the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly. Hiji soars through the water in the 100 breast and 200 individual medley while Pillado dominates sprints. Parodi, an exchange student from Italy, is a 50 and 100 freestyle specialist.
Juniors Garret Winter (50 and 100 freestyle), Dylan Specht (100 breaststroke and 200 IM) and Timothy Lee (200 free and 100 fly), and sophomores Nicholas Dykstra (200 and 500 free) and Harrison Mello (100 backstroke) came up with clutch victories for the Scorpions this season. Harrison and Kadin Mello are brothers.
Freshmen Spencer Allen (100 breast and 200 IM) and Joseph Montoya (50 and 100 free) are the future of the program.
Juniors Zachary Caipang and Marcus Stebbings and sophomores Cody Johnson and Michael Rodriguez bolstered the varsity lineup.
Pillado said he expects to see the Scorpions add more years to the championship banner.
“I think we’ll just keep getting better,” he said. “All the young swimmers are really good and really fast. They’re just going to get faster. I can see us continuing to win league and continuing to do well in CIF.”
King said this season had a positive impact on the boys’ program.
“The team will probably get a lot stronger and more popular,” King said. “We’ve always just been kind of a joke. Now people take us seriously.”