The Spartans reign of the Pacific View League has continued for 16 years without as much as a blip, cough or harrumph.
Most Roman emperors were never in power as long. Caligula, Claudius and Nero are mere amateurs. They all take a back seat to the Rio Mesa High boys’ swim team’s sovereignty.
The Spartans won their 100th straight league meet on May 1 against Hueneme.
“It’s awesome,” Rio Mesa head coach Keith McKnett said. “It’s a great milestone.”
The team won its first Pacific View meet in 1999 under then coach Laura Reardon. McKnett took over in 2001, and the Spartans have dominated foes like the King of Bavaria invading a Wienerschnitzel stand.
It hasn’t always been a leisurely dip in Lake Tahoe for Rio Mesa (7-0 overall, 4-0 in league). A meet last year at Camarillo came down to a single relay. There was a test this spring against rapidly improving Pacifica.
Rio Mesa can’t just show up and expect opponents to dog paddle in parallelograms.
“The streak reminds you of all the struggles and triumphs,” McKnett said. “The kids we get have loyalty, discipline and tenacity. It’s a celebration of their consistency.”
The Spartans put in countless hours in the pool.
“Everyone works so hard,” said Zander Lyskin, a senior cocaptain. “Seniors pass it down. You really have to give it your all.”
Jake Hunter, the other cocaptain, said Rio Mesa excels in meets because of its focus at practice.
Spartans must power through the terminator set, which involves each athlete completing 10, 100- yard sprints at full speed. Completing the set requires stamina and speed.
“We all try to get our best times at practice,” Hunter said.
Lyskin said the Spartans have a responsibility to continue the streak.
“There’s pressure, but it’s not bad pressure,” he said. “We have a responsibility to not only ourselves but everyone who’s been a part of it for 16 years. It’s important to swim well for them and do our best because it’s their streak, too.”
The program is robust. There are 110 boys and girls swimming for Rio Mesa. Girls’ coach Derrick Timmons, junior varsity coach Scott Dunst and Rio Mesa Swim Club coach Bill Oliver all have a hand in the team’s success.
Rio Mesa will try to contend for a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship on May 13 and 14 at Riverside City College. The Spartans have several competitors who know what it takes to win. A handful of swimmers won a Division 7 boys’ water polo championship in the fall.
Lyskin, captain for the water polo team, will be a double major in business administration and entrepreneurship at the University of San Francisco. The honors student will also play club water polo in the Bay Area.
Lyskin excels in the 50 freestyle, which he completed in a personal best 22.42 seconds at last year’s section meet. He also thrives in the 100 breaststroke, which he clocked in at 1:04.43 in the 2014 Division 3 finals. He’s an anchor in the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.
Hunter is a sprint specialist.
The Spartan savors being part of the 200 freestyle relay with Lyskin and seniors Thomas Bunker and Artem Shander.
“We have a lot of fast guys,” Hunter said of the relay quartet. “We’re all a pretty close group of friends. We’re good at motivating each other.”
Hunter, an honors student and attacker for the water polo team, will attend Brigham Young University in the fall.
He said the league winning streak can continue.
“Honestly, it can go on a lot longer,” Hunter said. “As long as we have Keith as coach I think we’ll do pretty well.”
McKnett thinks highly of his senior leaders.
“Zander and Jake are probably the two best captains I’ve ever had,” the coach said. “They’re big, strong, confident kids. When they speak, people listen—and they back it up.”
Joe Tinoco heats up in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. The senior swims the butterfly in the 200 medley relay. He uses a strong kick to win races; he was a CIF qualifier in the 200 individual medley last year.
“It feels pretty good,” Tinoco said of the winning streak. “Hopefully it keeps going after I’m gone.”
Tinoco, who wants to be a gunsmith, was a set defender for the section champion water polo squad. He enjoys fishing, kayaking and camping in his free time. He’s bound for Yavapai College in Arizona.
Bunker is one of the finest swimmers in Ventura County.
He was county champion in the 500 freestyle. Bunker, who’s never lost a 500 freestyle race in league during his prep career, has a chance to win a section title in the event next week.
“He’s so technical,” McKnett said of Bunker. “He puts time into it.”
Shander is a blazing fast swimmer in the 50 and 100 freestyles.
Josh Monroe, a sophomore, puts up points in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
Dalton Escrofani (100 breaststroke and 200 IM) and Tyler Nesbit (sprints) are seniors. Nesbit also plays water polo.
Reece Koe (100 butterfly and 500 freestyle), Lane Thompson (500 freestyle), Bryant Miller (100 butterfly), Kade Waller (100 breaststroke) and Hunter Cotter (100 backstroke) are juniors.
Noah Elston is a junior distance specialist.
Max Richardson, a freshman, competes in the 200 IM.
“It’s gone by really fast, for all the seniors especially,” Lyskin said. “It feels like yesterday when we were starting the season.”