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Water Wizard

Pete Loporchio, Who Coaches His Last Meet Today, Built Crescenta Valley Into Region's Top Program

May 13, 2000|LAUREN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA CRESCENTA — As Sean Winchell wavered in his commitment to swimming before the start of his senior season at Crescenta Valley High, Coach Pete Loporchio offered words of wisdom.

Winchell had already quit practicing with his club team and was uncertain how much time he wanted to put into what the Falcons hope will be a watershed season, even by Crescenta Valley standards.

"Coach just encouraged me to stick with it," Winchell said. "[Loporchio] said, 'When you look back, you're not going to remember the day you went to the beach your senior year with your four girlfriends. You're going to remember getting up on those starting blocks at the CIF championships.'

"It kind of made me see that maybe I am a good factor on the team."

Crescenta Valley swimmers and water polo players know the counseling to be typical of Loporchio, the guiding force behind the region's most successful aquatics program.

"He's just always there," said Travis Taylor, a senior distance specialist and defending Southern Section Division II 500-yard freestyle champion. "It's hard to imagine the team without him."

Many in the swimming community were surprised when Loporchio announced after last season that he would end an eight-year reign as Crescenta Valley boys' water polo and swimming coach following the Division II championships today in order to devote more time to his family.

"I'm sure they've got some good coaches in the wings," said Coach Steve Neale of Hart. "But I think it's going to be hard to replace the Pete Loporchio factor."

The Falcons have a 79-1-1 record in dual meets under Loporchio. Crescenta Valley lost to Hart in a nonleague meet last year and the Falcons tied the Indians this season.

Crescenta Valley won eight consecutive Pacific League swimming and water polo titles under Loporchio. Since 1993, the Falcons have won three Division II swimming championships and finished second in the division four times.

"We want him going out as a three-peat (Southern Section) champion," Winchell said. "We all want to do it for Coach."

Win, lose or draw, though, Loporchio says he has no regrets and plenty of great memories.

He has coached 31 high school All-Americans in the two sports and the Falcons have hadSouthern Section champions in every swimming event but the 100 breaststroke.

"I've been very blessed," Loporchio said. "I was in the right place at the right time. It was a really good match. The athletes responded to me, and I related to them, and it just started to snowball. The success built on itself."

Loporchio laid the foundation by building relationships with his students through games of Nintendo, pickup basketball and plenty of heart-to-heart talks away from the pool.

"You need to command respect, not demand respect, and you need to find what works for you," Loporchio said. "I think I have an ability to get kids on my side."

He is recognized by his peers as well.

Loporchio, 39, will receive the state swimming coach of the year award from the California Coaches Assn. in Sacramento next month, and he was the Glendale Unified School District's teacher of the year for 1998-99 for his work in honors science classes.

"I think he's made imprints not only at [Crescenta Valley], but in the community too, because of his class," said Peter Kim, Crescenta Valley girls' swim coach. "With all of his awards and championships he's won, he's still down-to-earth and very approachable. And I think other coaches know that."

Times of all Crescenta Valley swimmers are meticulously charted at each meet, and opponents' results are gleaned from invitationals, Web sites and newspapers.

"He'll know the third breaststroker on some team I've never heard of," Neale said. "He's a guru. He's much more aware of the competition than most coaches, and his teams are always prepared."

Loporchio's focus today will be on his team as the Falcons battle Santa Margarita, Loyola and Hart for the Division II championship.

He believes his swimmers are ready to go, and so do they.

"It's added an incentive, to win it again for Coach and give him one last hurrah," Taylor said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BY THE NUMBERS

State coach of the year award: 1

Southern Section Division II boys' swimming titles: 3

Pacific League boys' swimming and water polo championships: 8

High school All-Americans he coached in swimming and water polo: 31

Consecutive Pacific League water polo victories from 1992-97: 38

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