By MIKE COPELAND | Contributor
Over the weekend of August 10-11, the Crow Canyon Sea Lions won their ninth consecutive Contra Costa County Swim Championships at the Acalanes High School Pool. The Sea Lions swim program has established itself as one of the preeminent summer recreation swim clubs in the Bay Area, if not the entire state of California.
The team of youth swimmers, ages 5 to 18 years of age, has entrenched a remarkable legacy of swimming excellence in County Championship’s 53-year history.
Led by coach Ethan Hall and a committed group of junior coaches, this team of talented young athletes maintains a level of excellence envied by competitors near and far. In addition to the county championship, the Sea Lion team won their eighth Valley Swim Association Championship in nine years and was undefeated during the VSA dual meet season. Additionally, the team won both the Woodlands Invitational and Battle of the Ages.
“We have built a culture of success here at Crow Canyon. The coaches, athletes and parents have an expectation of excellence,” Hall said. “We don’t set out to win championships, but we do work incredibly hard and pride ourselves on achieving our full potential. I believe we have done that with this 2013 squad. When you work on the little things, big things happen.”
The Sea Lion team was established in the summer of 1978 by pool manager Rick Fields and a loyal group of Crow Canyon Country Club parents. The goal of the program was to make it a fun recreational activity for the families. With a core group of 30 swimmers that first year, the initial objective was to grow the team large enough to afford an experienced coach. The first year of the program, the team was coached by Fields and a few of the club’s life guards. By 1979, the Sea Lion team roster had grown to seventy swimmers which allowed CCCC to hire Tracy Wedemyer as the team’s first official head coach.
By 1984, behind the strong coaching of Penny Powell, Carol Kellagher and Steve Pitzer, the team finished with a winning record posting an impressive 6-1 record (3-1 in league). However, during the late 1980s and early 1990s the team was affectionately known as “Slow Canyon” by their competitors.
Beginning around 2004, Crow Canyon Country Club recruited a series of former U.C. Santa Barbara Gaucho swimmers to coach the Sea Lions. Over the years, Matt Struempf, Dan Cottam, Dave Madden, Jake Schroeder and Hall turned the program around. The coaches set a swimming standard and regiment that the team embraced. Every year, the team loses several top swimmers to the more competitive USS (year-around) programs, and every year a new group of kids step up to establish themselves and carry on the tradition.
“Over the years, the Sea Lions team has had some incredible swimmers who have gone on to be very competitive in swimming and water polo at the high school and college levels,” said Cottam, Aquatics Director at Crow Canyon Country Club and head coach of the Crow Canyon Sharks, a competitive USS swim club.
This year’s team of gifted Sea Lion swimmers was anchored by Sarah Klass (13/14), Evan O’Connell (9/10), Syndey Gann (U6), Christopher Lee (7-8), Mark Laurland (9/10), Katie Mitchell (9/10) and Cailey Steffens (15/-18) to name just a few. Names you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the coming years.
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