New Placer coach trying to create 'lifetime love of swimming'

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Everyone has their own goals in life.

For the 2013 Placer High School swim team, objectives of what the squad hopes to accomplish vary from person to person.

First-year coach Lisa Huerta, for instance, would love to see her Hillmen be wildly successful in the pool and do well at the section championships.

Some teammates jokingly say want to beat Center, even though they already did that in their recent 229-76 Pioneer Valley League meet to open the season.

Others on the 35-member roster would like to improve their skills and have a good time.

Sophomore Heidi Wolken is eager “to get pizza at the end of the season.”

While winning the PVL might not be a collective goal for the Hillmen, who are going through much more demanding training regiments under Huerta than in prior years, it’s definitely something they would embrace.

“It’d be awesome if we could win the league title,” said Huerta, who expects Bear River to be a strong contender for the crown. “(Our team is) definitely getting trained this year as if they are a USA swimming team, not just a high school team. They’re getting a little tougher training then they had in the past.”

Huerta has coached in a number of areas and pools around Auburn and Foresthill. She also coaches young USA swimmers with Northern Sierra Aquatics at Bear River High and is a coach of the Master Adult Swim Program at Auburn Racquet Club.

Huerta, who also holds numerous swim coaching certifications, had her team running and doing pushups before they even got into the pool this season.

“It’s a change for them,” Huerta said. “We’re building an aerobic base to increase their core strength to get their upper body going.”

Swimmers acknowledged that Huerta’s practices are more strenuous than previous coach Tyler Bonner.

“But in a good way,” they said.

Huerta also tends to write a different motivational quote on a board by the ARD pool each day for the kids.

Last week the sign read: “Everyone is gifted but some people never open the package.”

Of the quote board, Huerta said, “The kids to pay attention to it. It’s right in their face every time they pop up out of that water. My goal is excellence. We’re going to strive for excellence. Doing it right. Doing it correct. Pushing hard. Every kid out there has the ability to achieve excellence. They all have something to contribute.”

Though it’s early in the season, Holly Cox (breast stroke) and Michael “Jake” Rick (breast stroke) have already qualified for the section meet after beating Center.

On Friday, Placer beat Colfax to improve to 2-0. With fast times against the Falcons, Kiri Rao (100 back stroke) qualified for sections as did the women’s 400 relay team (Cox, Rao, Olivia Morgan, Payton Ambrosia) and women’s 200 medley relay team (Carly Huston, Cox, Rao, Ambrosia).

Morgan, who helped the rookie coach Huerta with bookkeeping from the get-go, and Ben Richardson have been providing leadership as team captains.

Other top swimmers on the team include Kelton McDonald, Jonah Brown and Annika Spokely.

At practices and meets, members of the Foresthill High School team also swim with the Hillmen.

The Wildfires compete as individual exhibition swimmers. Scores for Foresthill, which doesn’t have a swim coach or pool, don’t count toward Placer’s score.

Foresthill’s swim team is composed of Tyler Davis, Taylor Sear and Jonathan Huerta.

The Hillmen and Wildfires can be found swimming in the pool every afternoon — rain or shine. The only thing that will stop them is lightening or snow.

Said Huerta: “Hopefully we’re setting the base for a lifetime love of swimming.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel