Local swim coaches paid tribute to Nick Johnson at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon.
Johnson, a UCSB sophomore water polo player and a former Santa Barbara High standout, died tragically while doing a swim workout at the Santa Barbara High pool during spring break.
By Barry Punzal – PresidioSports.com
“This was a very promising student-athlete,” a somber UCSB swim coach Gregg Wilson told the luncheon audience. “I worked with his dad; my son had the pleasure of coaching him going through the ranks.
“I want to acknowledge that this effects water polo in Santa Barbara,” he continued. “It effects aquatics in Santa Barbara and it effects all of athletics – this group here and all that have preceded this year and all who will come forward. This is one of ours.”
Wilson announced that a memorial service will take place Sunday at 2 p.m., at the Unitarian Church in Santa Barbara.
San Marcos boys water polo and swim coach Jeff Ashton expressed his condolences to the Johnson family and Santa Barbara High.
He said Johnson “exemplified class and sportsmanship.”
“It’s a true tragedy,” San Marcos girls water polo and swim coach Chuckie Roth said. “I want to echo the thoughts of everyone.”
Ashton brought Alex Zauner and Jack Corbin to the luncheon, citing they possess the same qualities of Johnson: hardworking, high character and set a good example for younger athletes.
Zauner, a junior, and Corbin, a sophomore, are both sprint freestylers.
Roth, who was named the CIF-Southern Section girls water polo coach of the year by the California Coaches Association, has an undefeated girls swim team at San Marcos. Two of his top swimmers are sophomore Olivia Smith, the defending Channel League champion in the 100 fly, and senior Megan Bergthold.
Roth also has the first-year SBCC women’s program rolling.
“We’re in position to win every meet we compete in,” he said.
Roth introduced Alyson Marrs and Emily Foster as two local high school products who returned to the pool and are making an impact on the SBCC team. Marrs attended San Marcos and Foster went to Dos Pueblos.
Wilson just returned from Austin, Texas, where he watched his swimmer, Wade Allen, compete at the NCAA men’s championships.
“It was a very tough meet for an excellent swimmer and an exceptional young man,” Wilson said. “He just didn’t go as fast as he wanted. The meet was off the charts and every coach was baffled.”
He noted that even the U.S. Olympic team coach didn’t know the competition would be so fast
A week earlier, Wilson traveled with Andrea Ward to the NCAA women’s championships in frigid Minneapolis. “It was nine degrees on the day she swam the 100 fly,” he said.
Ward had a big meet, finishing fourth in the 100 fly.
“She was spectacular. She made me look like I knew what I was doing,” said Wilson, who credited the work of assistant Tim Siciliano. “He’s been Andrea’s coach for her career. I just carry her luggage, and I did a great job.”
Long-time Santa Barbara High assistant George Rempe said the Dons went 3-2 last week at the Coach Bob Invitational in Phoenix, beating teams from Chicago, Arizona and Colorado.
Rempe brought four players, sophomore pitcher Kevin Gowdy, the Athlete of the Week, pitcher Joel Johnson, reliever Kole T’Sas and all-around player Theo Laretto.
The Dons (9-3, 1-1) play at Calabasas on Saturday.
San Marcos Athletic Director Abe Jahadhmy pinch hit for first-year coach Jacob Pepper and said the baseball team has created a buzz on campus.
“As the season goes along, you’re going to see San Marcos improving,” he said.
Jahadhmy introduced center field Colin Dosch and second baseman Hunter French.
Nick Katzenstein of Dos Pueblos said his team went 2-2 playing at the Coachella Valley Rotary Tournament over spring break. The Chargers (5-8, 1-1) return to Channel League play Friday at home against San Marcos and play top-ranked Harvard Westlake next week at USC.
Katzenstein was joined at the luncheon by senior pitcher Phil Zajic and junior shortstop Luke Coffey.
SBCC’s Jeff Walker said he was glad spring break was over and his players were back in a routine of going to class and playing baseball.
The Vaqueros are in second place in the Western State Conference and play third-place Hancock on Tuesday at Pershing Park.
Robert Ruiz of Westmont said his team set several firsts over the last couple of weeks.
The Warriors swept their first GSAC series in five years (taking three from Biola), received votes in the NAIA national rankings and had their first GSAC Player of the Week, Steven Pollex.
Sophomore righthander Russell Harmening is tied for first in the NAIA for the most wins by a pitcher. He’s 8-2 and has an ERA of 2.34.
The Warriors, 21-14 and battling for a postseason berth, play a big series this weekend against Concordia.
One of the highlights of the week for UCSB coach Andrew Checketts was seeing that 17 players on his team have GPA’s of 3.0 or better.
“We have some really solid kids who are not only committed to baseball but committed to being good students,” he said.
The Gauchos (19-5) had a rocky start to Big West play, losing two of three at home against Hawaii.
“It was punch to the gut for our kids,” he said. “We have the opportunity to right the ship this weekend. We play at Cal Poly, which is ranked seventh in the country.”
The following week, the No. 17 Gauchos host No. 18 Cal State Fullerton.
Dos Pueblos coach Liz Frech said she was still trying to get her voice back two weeks after beating Santa Barbara and ending the Dons 114-match Channel League win streak.
Frech announced that Patrick Corpuz and the doubles team of Mason Casady and Andrew Tufenkian would play in the CIF competition at the prestigious Ojai Invitational later in April.
Frech introduced two versatile members of her 8-0 Chargers, Corpuz and Miles Baldwin.
Westmont tennis coach Mark Basham said the Stratman sisters, Lauren and Kate, are tearing it up as a doubles team and are ranked No. 3 in the NAIA. Lauren is sixth in singles.
Basham’s men’s team is ranked fifth in the nation and is led by four seniors. Those seniors have helped the Warriors win three 5-4 matches this season.