Being a varsity swimmer at St. Mary’s High is a bit like being a surfer in Nebraska. Head swimming coach Erin Heister is the first to admit that the school’s lack of an on-campus aquatic facility makes the sport of swimming a less appealing alternative than the more easily accommodated spring sports, like baseball, softball, volleyball and track.
Thanks to the school’s commitment to the swimming program, however, more and more male and female swimmers are beginning to find the trip to Contra Costa College for daily practice worth their time. Though the Panthers remain unable to fill a complete lineup, they have begun to make a splash in the Alameda-Contra Costa Athletic League by improving in the events they do attend.
“There’s a lack of participation that wouldn’t necessarily happen if we had (our own pool),” said the first-year coach, who hopes the 2000 squad will have enough success to attract more athletes to the sport in the future. “When I was offered this job, I was really excited to take it.”
St. Mary’s got the opportunity to gauge its status within the ACCAL on Monday, when it traveled to Encinal High for a tri-meet with Encinal and St. Joseph. The talented host squad had little trouble outclassing the Panthers on both the boys and girls sides, posting a 76-19 victory over the girls and a 68-14 win over the boys. St. Joseph was also deep enough to get by St. Mary’s, but the relatively close 53-33 girls score gave Heister reason for encouragement.
“We have a very small team, and our scores will reflect it,” the coach said after the meet. “We can’t fill events, so we’re really looking for some personal bests. Everyone’s dropping times.”
Junior captain Winston Le posted the boys’ most impressive performance, swimming the 100-yard breathstroke in 1:14.38. On the girls side, sophomore Anneka Besemer justified her recent promotion to varsity by recording a 1:37.13 mark in the 100-yard backstroke.
“That was a great time for (Winston). I think the captains are doing a good job,” Heister said. “I’m very happy and very impressed with (Anneka’s) time.”
The Panthers, who share their home pool with league rival Holy Names, get back to ACCAL action this Friday, facing Piedmont at the Highlanders’ home pool. Holy Names will also battle Piedmont in the tri-meet, starting at 3:30 p.m.