SAN DIEGO — His competitors at the San Diego Section swimming preliminaries had plenty of screaming teammates and classmates cheering them on at pool side, but Daniel Pierce of Castle Park High School had to settle for one fan supplying support--his mom.
It's not that Pierce isn't popular at Castle Park, but he has only one teammate, Eric Bonney, and he didn't qualify for the preliminaries.
The Sweetwater Union School District, which encompasses Castle Park, was hit hard by the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. The initiative forced the district to eliminate or severely cut back a number of the minor sports programs, including swimming.
That has not deterred Pierce, however. The sophomore competed as the lone member of the Castle Park swim team at Thursday's preliminaries at Mount Carmel, where he qualified for Saturday's finals in the 200-yard freestyle (1:47.49) and the 100-yard freestyle (49.41).
"We don't have anything like team spirit and no one is out there yelling for you," he said. "You feel kind of like the loner, even though there are sometimes people from other schools yelling for you."
During the regular season, Castle Park swims with the Chula Vista High team, turning dual meets into tri-meets. The school does not have the money to pay a coach, so Pierce and Bonney usually work out with the local U.S. Swim club.
Pierce said that in the past he and Bonney swam in the relay events, with each swimming an extra leg, but quit because their times were disqualified anyway.
Castle Park finished in fifth place in the Metro-South Bay League this season, ahead of Southwest, which had only one swimmer.
Pierce said that being "a loner" in the pool gives him an extra drive.
"It sometimes gets a little lonely and I feel left out," he said. "But it gives me extra incentive to show everyone that I'm better, even though I'm only one person."
San Diego Section Boys' Qualifiers:
200 medley relay--Vista 1:42.06, Valhalla 1:43.50, Patrick Henry 1:45.38, University 1:45.83, Helix 1:46.49, Mount Carmel 1:46.93; 200 freestyle--Kevin Disbrow (Oceanside) 1:47.11, James Fletcher (Valhalla) 1:47.21, Daniel Pierce (Castle Park) 1:47.49, Bernard Haferkamp (Fallbrook) 1:47.56, Mike Soderling (Vista) 1:47.86, Marty Binder (Helix) 1:47.87; 200 intermediate medley--Kirk Stakle (Mount Carmel) 1:54.84, Joe McNally (Vista) 1:59.94, John Guerin (Bonita Vista) 2:01.17, Roy Berg (Bonita Vista) 2:01.43, Scot Frontis (Valhalla) 2:01.86, Thorsten Hegberg (El Camino) 2:02.64; 50 freestyle--Brett Nystal (Coronado) 22.28, Mike Allen (Valhalla) 22.83, Tom Wilson (Helix) 22.86, Scott Rion (Point Loma) 22.92, John Lapp (Grossmont) 22.94, Marty Armstrong (University) 23.04; 100 butterfly--Nick Branca (Patrick Henry) 53.22, Scot Frontis (Valhalla) 53.30, Mike Hickey (Vista) 53.62, Bryan Mundt (University) 54.46, Stacy jones (San Marcos) 54.48, Kelly Parsons (Bishop) 55.10; 100 freestyle--James Fletcher (Valhalla) 49.07, Brett Nystal (Coronado) 49.24, Greg Latta (Patrick Henry) 49.40, Daniel Pierce (Castle Park) 49.41, John Lapp (Grossmont) 49.58, Jason Lee (Helix) 50.06; 500 freestyle--Kevin Disbrow (Oceanside) 4:45.90, Mike Soderling (Vista) 4:49.00, Tom Thiele (Coronado) 4:51.76, Jeff Ross (Vista) 4:51.95, Bradley Gordon (Coronado) 4:51.97, Marty Binder (Helix) 4:52.02; 100 backstroke--Joe McNally (Vista) 55.77, Tom Rutan (Fallbrook) 56.23, John Guerin (Bonita Vista) 56.76, Bryan Mundt (University) 57.20, Will Schnorr (Valhalla) 58.10, Scott Rasmussen (University) 58.40; 100 breaststroke--Kirk Stakle (Mount Carmel) 56.42, Kelly Parsons (Bishop) 1:02.21, Damon Blackman (Mount Carmel) 1:02.25, Gary Coleman (Helix) 1:02.89, Steve Kim (Vista) 1:03.10, Kelly Evans (Southwest) 1:03.57; 400 freestyle relay--Mount Carmel 3:21.23, Helix 3:21.87, Coronado 3:21.88, Fallbrook 3:23.37, Vista 3:24.25, Valhalla 3:24.77.