From the young underclassmen who have displayed potential to the positive leadership of the seniors, the San Benito High girls swim team has produced another solid season. Barring a breakthrough, the Haybalers will wrap up their season in the Monterey Bay League Championships on April 29 at Hartnell College.
Sophomore Elizabeth Fleming could be the wild card in that equation, since she has a decent chance of qualifying for the Central Coast Section Championships in the 50-yard freestyle. Fleming is a big reason why the Balers are set up for big things in the future. Fleming’s athletic versatility—she also made strong contributions on the basketball and volleyball teams this past season—has transferred to the pool.
“Her best time (in the 50 free) this year is 26.05 seconds, and I think the CCS cutoff (qualifying time) is 25 seconds,” Balers coach Fred Latimore said. “Her goal is to make it to CCS, and I’m glad she’s following through on it. She is a hard worker who has been doing double days, practicing in the morning with the team and in the afternoon with her club team.”
Junior Michaela Krulee has been solid as expected, taking first or second in all of her best races (100 butterfly and 200 individual medley) in all but one meet. The lone exception was a third-place showing in one of her races against a strong Christopher squad.
“She’s scored a lot of points for us,” Latimore said. “She’s improved her times from last year, and that’s always nice to see.”
Latimore said seniors Lili Jeske and Santana Rodriguez have done an excellent job of setting a great example for the underclassmen. Jeske’s best events are the 50 free and 100 free, and Rodriguez has done a variety of events, including the 50 free, 100 breast stroke, 100 fly and 500 free.
Jeske and Rodriguez both are excellent in the classroom as well, with Rodriguez earning the distinguished honor of being the school’s valedictorian.
“They are the definition of student-athletes,” Latimore said. “They are what I look for in leaders, in terms of being the first ones in the pool and the last ones to leave. They are mentors to the younger swimmers, which I appreciate. Lili is everything you want in a leader, and with Santana I can stick her in any event and know she’s capable of scoring points for us.”
In Alex Brunido and Maya Villegas, the Balers feature a pair of freshmen who have made waves this season. Villegas is a versatile swimmer who can compete in a number of different events. Villegas’ best events include the 100 back, 100 free and 200 IM.
“It’s a realistic goal that either next year or some point in her career, Maya will qualify for CCS in one or more events,” Latimore said. “She’s swimming fast times for a freshman, and it’s exciting to see.”
Brunido is one of the feel-good stories of any athlete at the school, as she was on crutches and a wheelchair as late as December after undergoing major ankle surgery, Latimore said.
“Before the season started in terms of expectations, we didn’t really know what was in store for Alex,” Latimore said. “We didn’t really know if she was going to be able to swim, but she’s come along quite nicely. She has fought through it and has been able to contribute. It’s been great to have her on the team, and she’s regaining full strength in her ankle. I know her times are not exactly where she wants them to be, but you can see the level of talent in her. When she’s at 100 percent come next season, she’ll be a huge contributor to the team.”