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SWIMMING

Point Blanc: It's All About Family

April 10, 2001|PAUL McLEOD

Rich and Ron Blanc of Santa Margarita High learned early on that it was hard for many of their swimmers to get excited about participating in high school meets because of the emphasis they put on club competition.

So, the coaching brothers struck on a simple formula to make their programs more than simply a stop-over sandwiched between club seasons.

"Just swimming back and forth, following a black line on the bottom of the pool, isn't that much fun," Rich Blanc said. "We want the kids to have fun."

Road trips to meets, like the one two weeks ago to Concord De La Salle High, provide bonding experiences. So do spur-of-the-moment pizza parties on the pool deck to celebrate the midway point of the season.

"We really try to give kids a good experience and something they will remember," Ron Blanc said. " We try to create an atmosphere that, when kids graduate, they will say, 'My time at Santa Margarita was a lot of fun. I made a lot of good friendships and I have good memories from my time there.' "

The results of their coaching style can't be argued. Santa Margarita won the Southern Section Division II girls' title last year and is expected to give Irvine a run for the boys' Division I title next month. Another championship would be the Blancs' third section title since 1990.

Rich, 34, graduated from Mater Dei in 1984 and Ron, 33, a year later. They didn't begin swimming until after their freshman years in high school, but they enjoyed it so much, they went on to compete at Orange Coast College.

In 1988, they returned to Mater Dei to serve as assistant coaches for swimming and water polo. Two years later, they took over the programs and guided the Monarchs to the Southern Section Division II-A girls' swimming championship.

Rich eventually earned a teaching credential and Ron a master's degree in business. In 1996, Rich was offered a job as a lower-level water polo and swimming coach at Santa Margarita, and Ron, who manages an electronics store, joined him. Three years later, they were put in charge of the Eagles' varsity swim teams.

It's a family affair. One sister, Renee, 22, is a student at Cal State Fullerton and the Eagles' junior varsity swim coach. Another sister, Rachelle, 30, and the Blancs' parents, George and Esther, help stage meets. Santa Margarita does not have a campus swimming pool, so it hosts most of its events at Saddleback College.

The Blancs believe the family atmosphere they provide their swimmers also serves to motivate them.

"It's a lot easier," Rich said, "to swim fast when a bunch of people are on the side of the pool cheering for you, rather than if you are just out there doing your laps by yourself."

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Fountain Valley is so sure Brandon Dotts is going to break his own school record in the backstroke that school officials never bothered to use cement to attach his tile to their new "wall of records," which was dedicated at the pool last Friday during the Barons' Sunset League meet against Edison.

Dotts currently holds the school's 100-yard backstroke record of 52.68 seconds, which he set last year. He broke the 1976 record of 53.0 set by Mike Kelly, which was the fastest prep time in the nation that year.

Dotts has already bested his record, but not during a high school meet. He posted a 51.51 at the Southwest Conference Championships last month.

"I'll do it," Dotts said of a new record. "But probably not until the CIF finals. . . . but I'll do it."

LOOKING AHEAD

The 29th Mission Viejo Invitational on Saturday is expected to be one of the top meets of the year. For the first time top-ranked Irvine will be able to attend, and Scott Hinman, the Vaquero girls' coach, is looking forward to the competition.

"It's going to be a great meet," Hinman said. "I'm expecting to see some top times and we'll get a chance to see some schools we don't usually get to."

Irvine will join county schools Laguna Hills, Northwood, Mission Viejo, St. Margaret's and Calvary Chapel. Newhall Hart, the third-place finisher at the CIF Boys' Relays, Sultana, Moraga Campolindo, Deer Valley, Murrieta Valley and Redlands will also participate.

The preliminaries are at 8 a.m. at the Marguerite Recreation Center with the finals at approximately 3 p.m.

Staff writer Melanie Neff contributed to this story.

If you have an item or idea for the swimming report, you can call us at (714) 966-5867 or e-mail us at melanie.neff@latimes.com

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

SWIMMING TOP 10

Orange County Coaches' Poll

GIRLS

*--*

Pos. School League 1. Irvine (1) Sea View 2. San Clemente (3) South Coast 3. Newport Harbor (2) Sea View 4. Santa Margarita (4) Serra 5. Foothill (5) Century 6. Laguna Hills (6) Sea View 7. Esperanza (9) Sunset 8. Canyon (7) Century 9. Capistrano Valley (8) South Coast 10. Sunny Hills (NR) Freeway

*--*

BOYS

*--*

Pos. School League 1. Irvine (1) Sea View 2. Santa Margarita (2) Serra 3. Fountain Valley (3) Sunset 4. Edison (4) Sunset 5. Capistrano Valley (5) South Coast 6. Villa Park (6) Century 7. Newport Harbor (7) Sea View 8. Mission Viejo (8) South Coast 9. San Clemente (NR) South Coast 10. Canyon (10) Century

*--*

Last week's rankings in parentheses

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