Top Modesto, Merced-area swimmers to converge at Johansen on Saturday

jcortez@modbee.comApril 10, 2014 

The 10th annual Stanislaus County Southern Section Swim Championships will be held Saturday, with roughly 500 athletes gathering at Johansen High’s B. Brent Bohlender Aquatics Center.

Swimmers enter the water beginning at 9 a.m., and the meet should conclude at around 3 p.m. Admission is $5.

Merced High’s boys and girls team, which have each won the last four meets, are both favored to defend their titles. Other teams scheduled to compete include Johansen, Davis, Downey, Beyer, Enochs, Gregori, Oakdale, Turlock, Pitman, Ceres, Atwater, Buhach Colony, Golden Valley, El Capitan, Los Banos and Hilmar.

Modesto High School, the lone Modesto Metro Conference team not participating, chose to skip the event because its prom is scheduled for Saturday night.

Connor Hoppe, the premier boys swimmer in the area and the reigning Stanislaus District Swimmer of the Year, is slated to compete in the 50 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, the 200 medley relay (breaststroke leg) and 400 free relay.

Last year, Hoppe won the 100 breast in a time of 57.40 seconds, 3.16 seconds faster than his nearest competitor. Hoppe used the County meet to gear up for the Sac-Joaquin Section meet, where he shattered the old section record (55.74) by nearly a full second (54.81). Hoppe is seeded No. 1 in the 50 breast this year with a time of 53.10. He’s also the top seed in the 50 free (20.90)

On the girls side, Gregori’s Katelin Britton is seeded first in the 100 (5.381) and 200 (1:57) freestyle events. She is only girl with a top seed in two different events.

The County Swim Championships offer competitors a chance to see where they stack up against others in the region and, for most swimmers, provided tougher competition than they’ll face in their own league meets.

To paraphrase Nuke Laloosh, there’s nothing like announcing your presence with authority.

Pacheco junior Gia Rodoni, who transferred from Central Catholic (her father, Brian Rodoni, is the Panthers’ varsity offensive line coach), had to satisfy the CIF’s mandated sit-out period (in this case, 14 games). She pitched her first game of the season Tuesday against Patterson, making her presence known with 20 strikeouts and one hit allowed in a 5-0 victory.

“She’s a phenomenal young lady first of all,” said coach Charlie Pikas. “She’s a leader amongst the players and has a great work ethic on top of a lot of ability.”

Rodoni, who was the Western Athletic Conference MVP as a sophomore and has committed to attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas, never before had struck out more than 13 in a high school game.

“I knew Patterson was a good team and I had to come in ready with it being my first game,” said Rodoni. “Everything was working. I was so excited to get back there. It was just a good game for me.”

Pacheco was 1-5 in league and in second-to-last place when Rodoni became eligible. If she were to run the table in her next six starts, it would virtually guarantee the Panthers a playoff berth.

That’s not too much pressure, is it?

“I don’t feel any pressure at all ... none,” said Rodoni. “I have confidence in my team and I know that we’re capable of beating people in our league.”

In case you need a refresher – after all, it’s been more than 25 years since “Bull Durham” hit theaters – Nuke Laloosh was the flame-throwing pitching prospect (played by Tim Robbins) for the minor league Durham Bulls.

It was a big day for Enochs High on Thursday as the Eagles clinched a pair of outright Modesto Metro League titles. After the girls soccer team defeated Downey 4-2 at the Mary Grogan Soccer Complex for its sixth straight MMC title, the boys tennis team did the same with a 7-2 victory over Gregori. That gives the Eagles the No. 1 playoff seed out of the MMC and a first-round Sac-Joaquin Section team home match.

Bee staff writer Joe Cortez can be reached at or (209) 578-2380. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeePreps.

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