Blaze of glory: Clovis boys 200 & 400 free relay teams take state by storm

Photo by Ron Webb
The gold medal state champion Clovis 200 free relay team of Zach Koch, Jesse Serpa, Graham Hauss and Jacob Rolih poses with their medals at the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships. They electrified the crowd with a time of 1:23.12 beating No. 1 seed San Ramon.

By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
paulmeadors@gmail.com
@paulmeadors

The first one felt so nice, they decided to do it twice.

The Clovis High boys high-flyin’ and freestylin’ 200 and 400 teams took center stage at the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships, electrifying the pro-Clovis crowd with two amazing performances, winning both events with flair and style.

Photo by Ron Webb The Clovis boys 200 free relay team cheer on anchor Zach Koch as they can smell a state title.
Photo by Ron Webb
The Clovis boys 200 free relay team cheer on anchor Zach Koch as they can smell a state title.

And overall, it was quite a nice day both in the pool and out with comfortable temperatures settling in the low 70s for the 14 Clovis Unified entries as they won eight individual and seven relays medals at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex on May 21.

First, the fearsome foursome of Graham Hauss, Jacob Rolih, Jesse Serpa and Zach Koch led wire-to-wire in lane six to claim the school’s second consecutive state title in the 200 free relay with a time of 1 minute, 23.12 seconds, 0.74 seconds faster than number one seed San Ramon Valley-Danville. This coming after a rather lackluster preliminary race, which seeded them fourth.

But no matter – the boys had it all the way, right?

“We weren’t the first seed so that pumped us up to go fast,” said Jesse Serpa, who swam the third leg. “We were confident coming into it.”

That confidence was boosted by Hauss, who set the tempo in the first leg and had earlier individually placed sixth in the 200 free (1:37.74) and fifth in the 500 free (4:28.85). He could be seen screaming intensely at his band of brothers during both of the freestyle relay races – a staple of Hauss.
And in the final event of the second annual meet, the granddaddy of them all, the Cougars team of Hauss, Rolih, Seth Nabors and Koch once again slayed it, finishing with a 3:03.35, considered an All-American time.

Photo by Ron Webb Buchanan junior Stephanie Bartel placed sixth in the 200 IM and eighth in the 100 backstroke. Bartel, didn't start swimming competitively until 8th grade after suffering a knee injury in track season.
Photo by Ron Webb
Buchanan junior Stephanie Bartel placed sixth in the 200 IM and eighth in the 100 backstroke. Bartel, didn’t start swimming competitively until 8th grade after suffering a knee injury in track season.

“I feel really pumped,” said an emotional Hauss just before going up to the podium to receive his 400 gold medal. “I’m on top of the world right now.”
Not lost in the stellar performances of the Cougars was the Clovis West relay team of Jacob Roberts, Austin Krietemeyer, Preston Mayer and Matt Elkington, who actually was seeded number one after a smokin’ prelim. The Golden Eagle team finished third with a time of 3:04.71.

In fact, Elkington, despite not being pleased with his individual races, won a total of four medals on the day, placing fourth in the 200 free, sixth in the 100 fly and fifth in the 200 free relay along with Roberts, Craig McCoy and Tyler Cotton.

Buchanan’s Stephanie Bartel, a junior, placed sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:02.96) and for good measure claimed eighth in the 100 backstroke (55.54). But her story is much more than two top-eight places at the state swimming and diving meet.

After admittedly being freaked out by the notion of competitive swimming at an early age (cracking her head on the side of the pool at age five didn’t help) she turned a seventh grade knee injury suffered during track season into standing on the state podium a mere four years later.

Photo by Ron Webb Clovis freshman Averee Preble swims in the 100 butterfly where she placed eleventh. She did medal when she placed fifth in the 500 free.
Photo by Ron Webb
Clovis freshman Averee Preble swims in the 100 butterfly where she placed eleventh. She did medal when she placed fifth in the 500 free.

Her friend tried to convince her to go try out for swimming but she answered with an emphatic no. But that melted away as this best friend finally got her in the water and what do you know – she enjoyed it, ascending quickly through the ranks, stretching her workouts from one or two days a week to a strict 30 day regiment.

“It blows my mind every day,” Bartel said still huffing and puffing from the 200 IM. “I’m so thankful I have this opportunity. It’s honestly so amazing, there’s nothing I can compare it to.”

Freshman Averee Preble made her mark at the meet as well, finishing fifth in the 500 free (4:51.31) and eleventh in the 100 fly (55.77).
“I’m just really happy,” said Preble, still out of breath just minutes after her 500 free race. “I really wanted to see what I could do and get up on the podium and I did that.”

The Clovis West girls free relay teams had medal aspirations of their own and finished third in the 200 (1:34.86) and fifth in the 400 (3:27.75). They finished a close second in the 200 last year and returned three core swimmers including Skylar Elkington, Caitlyn Snyder and Sarah Snyder. They added freshman Abby Samansky this season.

Clovis senior Jilian Hatch placed fifth in the 200 free with a time of 1:49.12 and tenth in the 500 free (4:55.43).