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Spartans win historic championship

Swim team is posing for photo.
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The Spartans are champs— again.

Rio Mesa High pulled off a rare and impressive feat, even by the decorated aquatics program’s lofty standards.

The Spartans captured the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 boys’ swim championship on May 14 at Riverside City College. In the fall, the boys’ water polo team hoisted the Division 7 trophy.

“We caught lightning in a bottle,” swim head coach Keith McKnett said.

Rio Mesa became only the third Ventura County school to capture a boys’ swimming section title, the first since Newbury Park seized the Division 3-A title in 1979. Buena won a section crown in 1969.

“For years we’ve been down there and watched other schools and coaches walk on the platform to accept the award,” the coach said. “I’ve always wanted to be out there with my team. When that moment came, it was surreal. . . . You can’t end it any better. This year was magical.”

RATTLED BY THE RUSH—Rio Mesa’s Tyler Nesbit, seen here swimming the backstroke, swam a leg in the victorious 400-yard freestyle relay at the sectionfinals last week in Riverside.
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers
RATTLED BY THE RUSH—Rio Mesa’s Tyler Nesbit, seen here swimming the backstroke, swam a leg in the victorious 400-yard freestyle relay at the sectionfinals last week in Riverside. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers
The Spartans took home the first-place trophy with 268.5 points and celebrated by eating barbecue ribs on a pit stop on the way home. Calabasas, in head coach David Hershman’s last season after 38 years with the Coyotes, followed in second with 189 points. Calabasas edged third-place Walnut by two points. Moorpark placed fourth at 174.

Camarillo, the inaugural Coastal Canyon League champs, took 14th place overall with 90 points.

On the girls’ side, Rio Mesa took ninth (132.5 points) and Camarillo was 18th (38).

Rio Mesa established the tone in the first race, the 200-yard medley relay.

The Spartans had the 25th fastest medley relay quartet entering the postseason, but Josh Monroe, Dalton Escrofani, Reece Koe and Artyem Shander notched eighth at the finals in 1 minute, 43.38 seconds.

“It got everyone fired up,” McKnett said. “All of a sudden, everyone’s swims got better.”

The team victory was especially sweet for senior captains Zander Lyskin and Jake Hunter. They also won a water polo championship in the fall.

“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Lyskin said. “It feels pretty cool. It hasn’t sunk in yet that we’ve won.”

“It’s pretty rare what we pulled off,” Hunter said. “Being my senior year, that feels really good. It’s a huge payoff for all our hard work, all those years of late night practices and working out all summer.”

Hunter, Lyskin, Shander and Thomas Bunker won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:29.18. Lyskin, Monroe, Bunker and Tyler Nesbit closed the meet by taking first place in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:14.43. Those two relay victories gave Rio Mesa 88 points.

The Spartans celebrate the team aspect of the sport.

“Everybody cheers each other on,” Lyskin said. “It’s a team effort. I personally like relays more. I’m not swimming for myself— I’m swimming for my team and the guy swimming next to me.

“I’ve played water polo so long, being super team-oriented stuck with me for swimming.”

Jacob Hammond, David Kromka, Andrew Morales and Deonn Crilly are Rio Mesa’s unsung heroes: The quartet snagged sixth through ninth places in the diving event.

The Spartans followed McKnett’s game plan to the last syllable. Divers qualified for the postseason and then made conservative dives at the championship meet. Swimmers swam their best during prelims. At finals, the Spartans were asked to swim smart.

Everything worked like a charm.

“Once finals hit,” McKnett said, “it was ours to lose at that point.”

Bunker was second in the 500 freestyle (4:43.72).

Lyskin was fifth in the 50 freestyle sprint (22.08). Monroe was sixth in the 100 backstroke and seventh in the 100 butterfly.

For the Rio Mesa girls, Anabel Barela, Jessica Radwan, Malainy Lyskin and Magie Le placed third in the 200 freestyle relay; Barela was sixth in the 100 freestyle; Beth Arbon and Samantha Woisard took 14th and 15th, respectively, in diving; Le was a consolation champ in the 100 breaststroke; and Barela, Radwan, Malainy Lyskin and Crista Walters were eighth in the 400 freestyle relay.

Cailey Renken, a Scorpion sophomore, was second in the girls’ 100 breaststroke (1:03.18) and fourth in the 200 individual medley (2:08.91).

For Camarillo’s boys, Nicholas Dykstra was eighth in the 500 freestyle; Harrison Mello, Joseph Kim, George King and Dylan Specht took ninth in the 200 medley relay; and Dykstra, Specht, Timothy Lee and Spencer Allen were 11th in the 400 freestyle relay.

The Spartan boys don’t have any superstars. They have something greater.

“We all swim for each other,” Zander Lyskin said. “A lot of teams have standout good swimmers. They’re on their own and they swim for themselves. We have good swimmers, but we don’t have any really great swimmers on our team. We always swam for each other and played water polo for each other.”

Welcome to the club

The Rio Mesa High boys’ swim team joined an exclusive club by winning the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship on May 14 in Riverside. The Spartans are only the third Ventura County school to seize a boys’ section crown. Here’s the list of county teams to capture CIF titles: • RIO MESA—2015, Division 3 • Newbury Park—1979, Division 3-A • Buena—1969

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