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Dolphins on rise after lean years

Increased participation, coaching staff reinvigorate youth team

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Dolphins on rise after lean years

Manteca Dolphins swimmers get ready to take to the pool during the Manteca Dolphins’ Barracuda swim group practice at Lathrop High on Wednesday afternoon.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED July 18, 2013 1:11 a.m.

The Manteca Dolphins had gone seven seasons without so much as a trophy or top-3 finish at a Mid-Valley Swim League invitational.

The drought was long and frustrating. The fall from grace hard for many in leadership to quantify.

“We hadn’t won a trophy since 2005,” outgoing President Lori Brubaker said, “but it’s starting to turnaround.”

Indeed, it is.

The Dolphins cascade into Saturday's Mid-Valley Swim League Championships at Lathrop High not as meet host, but a bona-fide meet contender.

The MVSL is comprised of seven teams in the Central Valley, including: the Ripon Sea Lions, Tracy Tritons, Oakdale Gators, Hughson Sea Dogs, Modesto Waves and Ceres Dolphins.

Racing begins at 8 a.m.

Excuse Brubaker if she already feels like a winner.  With one meet left in her term, she is confident the program has changed its stars. 

There is talent spread across the age groups, with Scott Tolman (13-14), Mallory Brubaker (11-12) and Hayden Beier (7-8) emerging as favorites for Saturday’s individual high-point championships.

The club has witnessed team-building events outside the pool, from group breakfasts to field trips; increased participation in practice and at meets; and finally, the acquisition of new hardware for its poolside display.

Yes, those trophies are new – and well-deserved.

The Dolphins have finished third in all three Mid-Valley invitationals this summer and closed the season with a dual meet victory over the Ceres Dolphins last week.

“I think some of the things we’ve adopted have changed that,” Lori Brubaker said. “We’ve made it about families. We’ve included not only the swimmers but we’ve taken in their little brothers and sisters. The parents have really gelled, too.”

“We also have great coaching,” she added, “and that speaks volumes about what we’ve been able to do.”

The Dolphins overcame the departure of head coach Jeanie Bergamo midway through the season. Bergamo moved to Tennessee to be with her fiancé, but left the program in capable hands.

Three of the four current coaches are Dolphin alumni, including co-head coach Jason Beier, and assistants Niki DeGeorge and Victoria Ramos. Beier and Ramos are first-year coaches, while DeGeorge is in her third season.

Co-head coach Chabre Basile is also in her first season with the Dolphins, though she’s no stranger to the coaching ranks or the MVSL. She was a raised a Hughson Sea Dog and competed both as a swimmer and coach in Turlock before joining Manteca’s staff.

Brubaker credits their collective enthusiasm and experience for keeping the kids active and involved in what can be long, grueling summer season.

“Last year was the start of the turnaround and its continued this season,” said DeGeorge, a soon-to-be sophomore at UC Davis. “I would say a lot of it has to do with the swimmers’ attitudes and (us) pushing the team effort and working hard in practice.

“More kids are practicing and more kids are going to meets this year.”

Higher attendance rates have helped the Dolphins score well in dual, tri-meets and invitationals.

The Dolphins recently honored more than 60 swimmers who attended all seven meets this season with a perfect attendance party.

“Every year it seems like we get more and more younger kids. That helps,” DeGeorge said. “We have some talent coming in, and kids are making strides from the beginning to the end of the season.

“I’m looking forward to next year.”

Everything would suggest that the Dolphins swim program is trending in the right direction.

Registration is up this season over last (232-220) and there is a sense of responsibility and accountability shared by the older age groups, a collection dubbed the “Barracudas.”

Their camaraderie and commitment to craft trickles down throughout the rest of the swim groups, Brubaker said, creating a shared expectation.

“All the younger kids look up to them. They all strive to be in that group. At the beginning of the year, we sat down and explained what a privilege it is to be a part of that group,” DeGeorge said. “They have to set a good example, and they do. They’re good about cheering on the little ones.”

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