With an all-star lineup of three signees to Pac-12 universities and an up-and-coming sophomore, the Dos Pueblos boys 200 medley relay team has its sight set on winning a CIF championship.
Seniors Walker Bell, Blake Parrish and Alex Valente and sophomore Theo Velikov make up the DP relay team. Bell and Valente are both headed to USC on swimming scholarships while Parrish is Stanford bound for water polo.
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“They’re really good,” DP coach Chris Parrish said of his three seniors. “They came in highly touted out of junior high, but you don’t know if they’re going to pan out in high school. And they’ve just continued to improve and improve, and all of it at a pretty remarkable rate.”
Bell starts the relay with the backstroke, Parrish follows with the breaststroke and Valente does the butterfly. Velikov handles the freestyle anchor leg.
“A little bit of pressure on him,” cracked coach Parrish of the youngest member of the team.
Bell isn’t concerned. “Under the lights at CIF, he’ll be pumped and he’ll be ready to go.”
Asked about a game plan, Bell put it simply: “It’s only a 50, so it’s go as hard as you can.”
Bell’s strong individual events are the 500 freestyle and 200 individual medley.
“Walker is a versatile kid,” coach Parrish said. “He can actually do any of the strokes but no one can go as fast as Blake in the breaststroke nor Valente in the fly.”
Valente is the defending CIF–SS Division 1 champion and current record holder in the 100 fly (46.69). Parrish was a consolation finalist in the 100 breaststroke last year and a third-place finisher in his sophomore year. Walker finished fifth in the 500 free and was a consolation finalist at last year’s CIF Finals; two years ago he was a consolation finalist in both events.
Velikov is the new kid on the block, but he’s not a stranger. He knows all the guys from club swimming.
“I’ve been around them my whole swimming career because they’re on the club team. It’s not a big step,” he said. “It’s really exciting to be around fast swimmers. They get you pumped up and ready to go.”
Bell is fired up.
“It’s the Dream Team,” he said of the medley quartet. “We’re the four best to come out of this school; we’re looking to break records, and we want to have fun. We want to win Channel League and see how high we can get in CIF, break our school record and do the best we can.”
DOS PUEBLOS’ REMAINING BIG MEETS:
Mt. SAC Relays: April 24-25
Channel League Championships: Thursday, May 7
CIF-ss Finals: Saturday, May 16
The record is 1:32.04, set two years ago at the CIF Finals, where the team of Bell, Parrish, Valente and Grant Schroeder placed third. Loyola won the race in a state record of 1:31.16. Last year, the DP foursome of Bell, Parrish, Valente and Federico Sarboraria posted a 1:31.91 in the prelims (the second fastest time) but the team was disqualified. University won the event in 1:30.87.
Coach Parrish said the team will be working on its exchanges at practice.
“We’re going to be making sure we’re right on,” he said. “If we can shave off even 3-tenths of a second on our exchanges, we’ll be in much better shape.”
Blake Parrish, the coach’s son and one of the CIF-Southern Section’s all-time leading goal scorers in water polo, is “stoked to be a part of the relay team. It’s super exciting,” he said. “We’re just stacked. Hopefully we can actually pull off what we know we’re capable of. There’s a little bit of pressure, but I know we got the talent to do it.”
Being part of the team is fun for Valente, one of the fastest high school butterfly swimmers in the country and a member of the U.S. Junior National Team. “It’s a great,” he said. “In club, you don’t always get to be part of the relay, whatever the reason. Every meet you know you’re part of a relay you try to do great things. It’s awesome; it’s a team atmosphere that you don’t get other places.”
Like in other team sports, Valente said the relay team will huddle up before a competition and give a pep talk or use a “one-word cheer like: ‘Hydration!, on three.’ Nothing too serious, just something to get us unified and ready for our race.”
Coach Parrish said the medley and 400 free relays have good shots at winning CIF titles. As for a CIF record in the medley relay, he said it will be close. “We have the potential to get there. It will come down to having one really good race.”
The swimmers will be ready to do it.