Balers off and swimming

Ryan Okubo is one of the Balers' top returners this season.

If San Benito High’s first meet was any indication, it’s going to be an exciting season. In its only home contest of the season last Friday, the girls team cruised past Monterey, 154-42, while the boys—despite having just eight athletes available—almost pulled things off in a 88-81 loss.

What the boys lack in numbers they have in quality swimmers. Led by double individual event winners Josh Corrigan and Zander Bonnet, San Benito has a strong core group of swimmers who are experienced, versatile and talented. One of the core members include junior Gordan Rianda, who was part of the victorious 200 and 400 free relay teams.

Rianda, who also swims the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke, plans on adding a breakthrough moment this season.

“Nothing big has really happened in my swim career yet,” he said. “It would be nice to go to CCS for our relays.”

During the season, Rianda sometimes practices twice a day—once in the morning before school and again in the afternoon after school. His goal is to hit 1 minute flat in the 100 backstroke and around 2:18 in the 200 IM. His personal-records (PRs) in both events is 1:04 and 2:23, respectively.

Rianda knows it’ll take hard work and smart training to shave off significant time in both events.

“Technique-wise I’m trying to keep my body from bouncing around,” he said. “My body doesn’t usually stay perfectly straight in the lane.”

Rianda played on the water polo team in each of the last two years, and he’s made dramatic improvement in both sports. That’s speaks to his willingness to put in long hours of training during the off-season. San Benito’s winning 200 medley relay team featured Connor Murphy, Ryan Okubo, Ben Smith and Kenneth Kliewer.

Bonnet, Corrigan, Murphy and Rianda brought home the victory in the 200 free relay, while Bonnet, Corrigan, Rianda and Okubo brought home the win in the 400 free relay.

The girls team has a plethora of top returners, including event winners Lili Jeske (100 free), Ceily Hepner (200 free), Michaela Krulee (100 butterfly and 200 IM), Elizabeth Fleming (50 free), Amber Logue (500 free) and Catherine Nordstrom (100 back).

The quartet of Maya Villegas, Fleming, Krulee and Jeske won the 200 medley relay race. Jeske, who also competes in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, wants to hit times of 29 seconds in the 50 free and 1:04 in the 100.

The senior is plenty motivated after a disappointing finish in the finals of the 100 free in the Monterey Bay League Championships last season, when she slipped off the wall on the turn, costing her precious seconds.

“I’m exited for a fresh start to the season,” she said. “I’m forgetting about that race and moving on.”

Jeske is a student in and out of the pool, focusing on her strokes and grades. Jeske said she credits assistant coach Leif Nordstrom for helping her hone her technique. Jeske has a cumulative 4.2 GPA—which currently ranks her 14th in the senior class—and is taking four Advanced Placement classes this semester.

Jeske doesn’t get rattled that often, but as the school’s Yearbook Editor, she carries a lot of responsibilities.

“Right now is probably the most stressed I’ve ever been because the deadline is in one week,” she said.

However, swimming has proven to be Jeske’s best stress buster.

“When I get in the pool, I forget about everything else on my plate,” she said. “Sometimes I’m really tired, but it’s actually a relief just being away.”

Jeske didn’t train much in the off-season because she was too busy working as a swim instructor for San Benito Aquatics during the week and as a receptionist at Intero Real Estate Services on the weekends. However, Jeske is focused on making her senior year her best season yet.

“I have to push hard this season since it’s my last one,” she said.

Against Monterey, Jeske was also a part of the Balers’ victorious 200 medley and 400 free relay teams. The girls team was so dominant that it won all but two events: the 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay.

“It was a great start for the girls,” Balers coach Fred Latimore said. “We’ll take it one week at a time, and try to improve each week.”

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