Templeton girls quickly become a swimming success

Eagles are challenging longtime power Cabrillo for LPL supremacy in only their second swimming season in the league

ajankowski@thetribunenews.comApril 12, 2014 

Templeton High swimming coach Karen Neil, second from right, leads the Eagles through a Friday practice at Kennedy Club Fitness in Atascadero. The Eagles don’t have a school pool.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Trust them, Marina Wesner, Sian Morris and Ande Miller saw all the reactions and heard all the questions.

As the three would walk through the halls of Templeton High last year and fellow students noticed their forest green “Templeton Swimming” hoodies and sweatpants, the trio knew what interaction usually followed.

“We have a swim team?”

“Since when?”

“Where do you even swim?”

Or there was Morris’ favorite, which would come after she listed all the accolades the standout swimmers achieved before they had enough numbers to compete in the Los Padres League:

“What? Really? You’re good?”

Yes, the Eagles are good. Quite good.

And they love finally having a league to prove it in.

As freshmen swimming for different clubs around the county, Wesner, Morris and Miller joined then-senior Megyn Rugh to comprise a four-member contingent that couldn’t compete for points but qualified for the 200-yard medley relay at the CIF-Southern Section meet.

As seniors, the three now lead a team of 30 girls that is 5-0 in league duals this season — its second in the LPL — including a signature 94-76 victory over powerhouse Cabrillo, which has been league champion every year since 2000.

“My first year, we were young and didn’t really know what we were doing so nobody took it too seriously,” Wesner said. “Now that we’re winning our meets and competing for points with a chance to take league, it’s just really exciting.”

Templeton coach Karen Neil said she’s never seen a performance like the one her Eagles put on earlier in the month against Cabrillo against the consistently stout Conquistadores. From the first touch of the wall to the final relay, the Eagles won every event, setting numerous personal records and Southern Section qualifying times in the process.

“It’s not like we’re stacked,” said Neil, who added her team was outnumbered 51-25. “We have a great group of girls that works hard, and they just brought it that day.”

Megan Miller, a junior and Ande’s sister, swam automatic section times in winning the 50 freestyle (26.00 seconds) and the 100 backstroke (1:04.50). She teamed with Wesner, Jordan Hazell and Amanda Wilson to win the medley relay in 1:59.40, and took the 200 freestyle relay with Keegan Trimble, Sheridan Lee and her sister in 1:48.48 — both automatic times as well.

“We know that’s our biggest competition, so we were really pumped for it,” said the younger Miller, who is undefeated in individual LPL races this year and the defending league champion in the 50 freestyle. “All the races were pretty close, but we knew we’d have a better chance than last year.”

The Eagles made a statement at the league championships the first time they were eligible, but lack of depth put them a distant second behind Cabrillo last year.

Templeton won the 200-yard medley and the 200 freestyle relays and crowned LPL champions in Ande Miller (200 freestyle) and Megan Miller (50 freestyle) as well as Wesner (200 individual medley).

For a group that had to latch onto other teams’ meets without a chance to score team points just one year prior, the 2013 result was a welcomed surprise as well as tangible proof that the following year could be even more special.

“I don’t think any of us were expecting that,” Wesner said of the second-place finish. “It was crazy. But now that I’m a senior, I want to be league champion.”

Added depth has the Eagles thinking this could be the year they surpass Cabrillo at the final league meet May 7, which uses eight-lane scoring instead of a dual meet’s six.

“That makes it tougher,” said Neil, who also coaches the four-member boys team. “If you have the swimmers, you can really spread them out. That’s what we’re trying to groom this team into.”

Because Templeton does not have a pool of its own, the team trains at the one at Kennedy Club Fitness in Atascadero.

The Eagles hosted their first “home” meet in team history this season, when Atascadero let them use their high school facilities.

Supporters came, but the team still yearns for a pool of its own, which would offer a true home
advantage and could make sports such as diving and water polo possible.

“I feel like people would be way more supportive of us if we had a pool,” Morris said. “Even at the Atascadero meet we had people come, but for the last two years, people didn’t even really know that we have a swim team.”

There is a pool inside Templeton Community Park, but Neil said it is in need of a heater and other renovations.

Any facility built from scratch takes years to plan and construct, long after the founding members have graduated.

“I feel like a pool is going to be coming, though,” Wesner said. “People are starting to realize how big of a deal it is.

“Thirty-plus kids (now) and we don’t even have a pool? I can’t even imagine what it’d be like if we had one.”

For one, there’d be no more questions in the hallways, although the Eagles’ results have already provided plenty of answers.

“It’s hard when you start so small,” Wesner said. “It’s hard to get noticed, but it takes time. I mean, it’s been four years, and look where we are now.”

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