By EMILY WALOS
Hours, upon hours had been working towards this moment. In second place for 2019 CBL girls, “Redlands High School.” There was only one school still standing, “your 2019 CBL champions are… Citrus Valley!”
For the past nine years, Citrus Valley’s swimming has been inferior to its city rivals of Redlands East Valley and Redlands High School. Girls swimming had never made top two, and Boys had never won overall. However, this year the underdogs became the top dogs, with girls winning 1st overall and boys coming in 2nd, just behind RHS.
At the beginning of the season, there were many doubts about the season for Citrus, especially for the Girls, as eight out of the 14 Varsity girls were freshman. Now, this might seem like a crazy idea to allow that many first-year high schoolers on a Varsity team. You may wonder if there just wasn’t enough people who tried out, but it was just the opposite. The final Junior Varsity and Varsity team came out to be around 60 kids. These freshman varsity girls were something special as they all came from a background of swimming on a club team. Many of the girls had come from the Inland Empire Aquatics, following Varsity Coach Jessie.
Still, due to their age, many were skeptical of sending 14 and 15-year-olds to compete against tall, fast upperclassmen, but one person that never had a doubt in their mind was Coach Jessie, saying, “There was never a doubt in my mind, I know these kids, I know what they are capable of and I know they are a force to be reckoned with.”
Each swimmer has a story, and they all express a different outlook on swimming. Whether it is their passion, a way into college or something to just do for “fun,” each one is special. Here are some of the eight freshmans’ stories.
“Well, I’ve been swimming since I was nine, and, even though I was considered “late” compared to all my other teammates, I knew I fell in love with the sport. There were some days where I felt discouraged because my friend had started at the ages of four or five, and I felt that it gave them an edge because they had more years of experience and time to grow as a swimmer. Of course, age or the time an athlete begins their sport does not define the physical ability or mental push of the athlete. Since then, I have learned that my favorite stroke is the backstroke, and am currently enjoying every swim practice, but mostly due to the fact that eight freshmen on the Varsity Girls swim team got to experience our first CBL title in history. This season couldn’t have made me any more proud.”
“I began to swim when I was around six for two years, but then I stopped to play water polo. It wasn’t until high school that I began to swim again. I’m a swimmer because I need to get faster for polo, and I love to be in the water. My favorite event has to be the 400 free relay and freestyle.
My hardest challenge was to push myself in order to make varsity. I came in as a beginner and had to learn all the rules and skills. This season was so much fun and we accomplished so much. It’s probably going to be my favorite season.”
“I’ve been swimming for nine years. I am a swimmer because I just love the people I am surrounded by; they push me to be the best I can. I love the sport, just to be in the water racing always strikes interest in me! My favorite stroke is the breaststroke (100 breaststroke), and my
hardest challenge was keeping up with the times as a freshman. This season, in my opinion, was the best in history! I’ve never experienced a team as supportive and loving as this one. Winning CBL was something that was deserving to us.”
Each story is different with varying challenges and strengths, but all in all the team came together, pushed themselves hard no matter their age and brought home the championship.
Throughout the season, swimmers were taught lessons and discipline, but the person that learned the most valuable lesson was Coach Jessie. He learned to never underestimate the drive that teenagers have to shave their coach’s head. As of May 20, Coach Jessie has said goodbye to his long hair and hello to a “shaved head.” At a final end of the season fun practice, each girl that contributed to the CBL was able to take a shot at Coach Jessie’s head with a real shaver as per the deal made between the coach and swimmers before CBL.
Citrus Valley has had its best swim season in all their history, with eight freshmen pulling the weight of what normally is upperclassmen. They were able to look past their age challenge and win CBL.