Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - December 21, 2012

Aquatics program renovation at M-A

Gunn and M-A wrestlers are pinning down some early season success

by Keith Peters

Spieker Pool at Menlo-Atherton High is presently empty and undergoing re-plastering and renovation. It couldn't be more appropriate, since the Bears' aquatics program is doing the same.

In just a matter of weeks, the Bears have hired a new boys' water polo coach and head swim coach and are presently searching for a new girls' water polo coach.

Thus, the 2013-14 school year will begin with an entirely new group of aquatics coaches for the first time in decades.

Former Stanford All-American swimmer Lori Heisick Stenstrom is the new head coach of the Menlo-Atherton boys' and girls' swim teams and Giovanni Napolitano takes over the boys' water polo team, as previously announced.

Girls' water polo coach Chris Rubin recently stepped down after eight years with M-A, and a search is on for his replacement.

"As good as our aquatics coaches were last year, we are equally as excited for the future," said Steve Kryger, a co-athletic director along with Paul Snow.

"Gio has played at a high level and has coached with one of the best in Dante (Dettamanti) and so many of our players and parents felt strongly that Gio should continue on as their coach," continued Kryger. "He showed great patience and a great ability to break down the game and teach it at a high level they could all understand. He also got a very strong endorsement from Dante, who felt that Gio had a great understanding of the game as well as an ability to teach all aspects of water polo."

Kryger, along with Snow, are also happy to have Heisick Stenstrom aboard.

"We are thrilled to have someone as decorated as Lori Stenstrom as our new swim coach," Kryger said. "We have heard so many positive things from her PASA swimmers, as well as parents of those same swimmers. She is bringing along (former Stanford swimmer) Jane Worden, who coaches with her at PASA and we are confident that she will build on all that coach Tom McRae did."

Worden made the World Championships team at the age of 14 in 1978 and continues her swimming through Stanford Masters.

"As to the girls' water polo position," said Kryger, "we have a couple of highly qualified candidates who we have spoken with and look forward to interviewing in January. Chris Rubin has a vested interest in seeing that position filled with an outstanding coach and he will be helping us during the interview process."

The most recent hire is Heisick Stenstrom, who comes to M-A with an extensive background in competitive swimming. She was a 17-time All American and NCAA champion at Stanford. She was also a member of the USA National Team for seven years, earning medals for the United States in the Pan Pacific, Pan American, and World University Games.

Heisick Stenstrom was an alternate on the 1992 USA Olympic Team after placing third in the 100-meter breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She also had the distinct honor of being a member of four American Record-setting medley relay teams.

While at Stanford, from where she graduated in 1993, Heisick Stenstrom was coached by the legendary USA Swimming Hall of Fame coach Richard Quick. She still ranks No. 7 all-time in Stanford history in the 100-yard breast and No. 11 all-time in the 200 breast. She was the NCAA champion in the 100 breast in 1991 and swam on five medley relay teams that won NCAA titles.

Among her teammates were Olympians Summer Sanders and Lea (Loveless) Maurer.

Heisick Stenstrom met her husband, former Cardinal quarterback Steve Stenstrom, while at Stanford. Stenstrom still holds the school record for career passing yards.

Heisick Stenstrom is a native of Edina, Minnesota where she recently was inducted into the Minnesota Swimming Hall of Fame.

Her coaching career began locally at Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics (PASA), the No. 4-ranked USA Swimming club program in the country. At PASA she has worked with swimmers ranging from novice to the Junior National level.

Rubin steps down after guiding the Bears to a 157-68-1 record during his tenure. He guided the M-A girls to their first-ever Central Coast Section title in 2007 and a second crown in 2010, plus three runner-up finishes. His first team, in 2005, set the school record for more wins (26) in a season while his '09 squad suffered only two losses (versus 25 wins).

"Ultimately, I love the sport, the community, the girls, M-A . . . and, although it (water polo) is only a few months out of the year, there are some other activities I am looking forward to pursuing," said Rubin. "This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. It's something I have contemplated the last couple of years and something that I feel confident about.

"With that said, the M-A girls' team should be fantastic next year. Championship? Definitely possible. While working with this group one more year was REALLY desirable on a lot of different levels, for the same reasons it seemed like a good time to attract a qualified coach to take over a strong program."

Napolitano steps up from his position as the Bears' JV coach and assistant varsity coach to take over the boys' varsity following the retirement of Dante Dettamanti, who guided the Bears to the PAL Bay Division title this season and a second-place finish in the CCS Division I playoffs.

Napolitano grew up playing water polo in Italy and played professionally for many years. He has coached locally at Woodside and Palo Alto highs before joining M-A this past season.

McRae, meanwhile, took over the swim program in 2007 and kept the Bears at the top of the PAL dual-meet and league championship meets during his tenure. The M-A boys won the PAL championship meet last spring. In 2011, the boys finished seventh at CCS for McRae's highest section team finish.

There was no report to McRae's departure. Kryger did not comment, saying only that it was a personnel issue.

"No doubt," said Kryger, "it would be very difficult for any school to have to replace with equal 'value' any of the three aquatics coaches we had. We feel very fortunate to have found two amazing aquatics coaches so far. The fact that both Gio and Lori wanted to coach here is a testament to the student/athletes involved in those programs, the incredible support we have from our parent group, and the support we get from our district personnel to maintain high-quality facilities."

Wrestling

Despite getting a pair of individual victories, Gunn came up short in its bid for back-to-back team titles at the Lynn Dyche Classic on Saturday in San Jose last Saturday.

Led by champions Daniel Papp (126) and Eric Cramer (132), Gunn produced eight place-winners and earned 170.5 team points on its way to a runner-up finish in the 24-team tournament.

Gunn's Papp was honored as the outstanding wrestler of the lightweights (103 to 145 lbs). He won four matches, two by pin. Teammate Eric Cramer captured the 132-pound title with a 4-0 record that included two pins and one tech fall.

Finishing third for Gunn were Cadence Lee (106), Ian Cramer (138), Blaze Lee (145) and Stephen Martin (170). Blaze Lee and Cramer each had four pins, with Martin getting three and Cadence Lee two.

Gunn Sean Lydster was fourth (195) and Shelby Oyung took fifth (120). Each had one pin.

The Titans missed winning the title by one place. Caruthers High (Central Section-Fresno) won the team title and Washington Union (Central Section-Fresno) placed third.

In a girls-only tournament at James Lick on Friday, Gunn sophomore Grace Robinson went 3-0 (all pins) and won the 118-pound division.

At the first Cross Division Duals featuring Peninsula Athletic League teams, host Menlo-Atherton and Half Moon Bay each went 3-0 while Mills, Sequoia and Burlingame finished 1-2 and Aragon 0-3.

The Bears defeated Aragon (42-22), Burlingame (46-21) and Mills (48-20).

Among the highlights, M-A senior Hector Santana won a match by pin right as time expired in the third period of a tied match. Santana finished the day 3-0. Other M-A wrestlers who went unbeaten on the day included junior Anthony Andrighetto (2-0), junior Austin Wilson of M-A (3-0), junior James Smith (3-0), sophomore Donald LaHaye (3-0), and junior Josh Buttram (3-0).

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