EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was submitted by a parent from the community.
Several of the spectators did a double-take at Saturday's South Coast Swim Conference relay finals when they noticed a girl lined up at the blocks for Newport Hills in the third lane of the age 7-8 boys' 25-yard backstroke relay.
Newport Hills apparently thought that the upcoming race was an unofficial "mixed" (boy-girl) relay, rather than an official race worth 12 potential points. Harbor View Swim Team Coach Ted Bandaruk, realizing his neighborhood rival's error, jumped over his own starting block from lane No. 4 and risked falling into the pool to warn Newport Hills that it had lined up the wrong swimmer.
"Had the girl dived in, Newport Hills would have been disqualified rather than winning the race," said Amy Cohen, whose son Connor (8) anchored the HVST team that ultimately took second after Coach Ted saved Newport Hills from a DQ. "But it's a classic example of Coach Ted's sportsmanship that he made sure that Newport Hills got the right swimmer up there."
And when Newport Hills made the same mistake in a later race, HVST's Bandaruk again jumped over and corrected them, saving his "rivals" from the loss of crucial points in the hard-fought relay finals, which Newport Hills later won by just six points. In both instances, Bandaruk got the relay official's attention with his famous whistle and convinced the official to briefly halt the meet so that Newport Hills could straighten out its lineup.
For "Coach Ted," as he is known to his swimmers, sportsmanship and staying nimble have been part of the job description this year. HVST, a member of the six-team South Coast Swim Conference that includes teams from Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Lake Forest as well as Newport Beach, has faced a number of recent challenges. Those include a renovation of the clubhouse that have made home meets impossible and the loss of the pool's heater during the chilly spring months.
When the pool heater gave out unexpectedly, team president Molly Britt along with Coach Ted and fellow coaches Kate Inglis, Sean McGhie, Amy Zucker and Haley Prickett scrambled to arrange for their swimmers to train at other county facilities, including the Newport Beach Tennis Club and the Costa Mesa Y.M.C.A.
"We are very grateful to our good neighbors for letting us share their facilities," Inglis said. "But it presented a number of challenges to our swimmers and parents." Not to mention the coaches, some of whom had to race back and forth between pools to accommodate different age groups swimming at different locations.
Regina Jennings, mother of four including competitive swimmers in the 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 age divisions, expressed relief when HVST's pool came back on-line.
"It was nice to tell Brendan to just jump on his bike and go down to practice," said Jennings, referring to her 7-year old son who swam the second leg of a winning mixed 4x25 breaststroke relay at finals (1:44.85) with teammates Carter Healy, 7, Caitlin Callin, 8 and Grace Klinger, 7.
Earlier this spring, Jennings, while juggling other sports practices for four active kids, also arranged swimming car pools for multiple age categories and dealt with ever-evolving schedule and venue changes for practices. Inglis estimated that attendance was down more than 30% at the spring practices.
Unsurprisingly given the upheavals, HVST lost its first two swim meets to Newport Hills and Lake Forest. But there was a silver lining, because swimmer Timmy Hanson, 12, gave an awe-inspiring performance at Newport Hills, breaking three team records in individual stroke events in the 11-12 boys' division: the 50 freestyle (26.34), breaststroke (33.81) and butterfly (29.09). Teammate Ari Marks, 17, likewise set a team record for the 15-18 boys' 50 backstroke (27.16).
"Coach Ted said that this was a year to make lemonade out of lemons," said Inglis, who is in her 12th year of working shoulder-to-shoulder with Coach Ted to train HVST's swimmers.
Breaking four team records at Newport Hills was an example.
HVST parents and coaches got more good news from team president Britt the week of June 6: the pool's heater had finally been repaired, thanks in no small part to Britt's own persistence. And on June 18, three of Britt's children (Carter, 10; Eliza, 13; and Nick, 12) contributed 71 points to the decisive 733-476 HVST Dolphin win over the Greenbook Gators of Fountain Valley.
In individual stroke events, Hanson beat his own earlier record by swimming at the lightning-quick speed of 28.34 in the 11-12 50 butterfly and achieved another team record with a time of 1:05.03 in the 100 individual medley event.
Big brother Justin Hanson, 13, likewise posted records in the 13-14 50 butterfly (26.22) and 100 IM (59.32).
Inglis also commended swimmers like Ella Abbot, 10, who consistently came to the practices held at various locations and brought in 19 points for the team at the Greenbrook meet with strong swims in the second leg of the 100 medley relay (first place, 1:15.62), fourth leg of the 200 free relay (second place, 2:36.47), 100 IM (second place, 1:35.74), and 50 breaststroke (fourth place, 47.69).
HVST ultimately placed third in the relay finals last week and posted particularly strong showings from its 7-8 and 13-14 age divisions, with the girls and the boys in those divisions, respectively, taking first-place trophies.
Inglis noted that swimmers like Garrett Godber, 13, Connor Mickelsen, 13, and Patrick Ong, 14, "exemplify what we are looking for on the Harbor View Swim Team by the spirit and joy they bring to their races. They attack the water. It's beautiful to see."
Those three, along with teammate Cole Fredrick, 13, posted a first-place finish in the 4x50 butterfly relay (1:53.42). The three teamed up again and joined Landon Thies, 14, to land a first-place finish in the 4x50 yard backstroke relay (1:56.71) and finally, with Ford Secrist, 13, the dynamic trio achieved a second-place finish in the 4x50 freestyle relay (1:41.52).
HVST swimmers and parents are convinced that, with the pool heater operational and renovations drawing to a close on the clubhouse, things will continue to look up for HVST.
Meanwhile, they expressed delight but no surprise that Coach Ted was honored recently by the City of Newport Beach for his many years of service and contributions to the aquatics community, which service includes years of coaching winning water polo teams as well as swimming.
Parents noted that he teaches not only swimming but life skills, as well — to parents and swimmers alike.
HVST parent Katherine Darmer recalled three years ago her son, Locke, then 4, showed up to practice wearing board shorts rather than the team-issued Speedos, drawing Coach Ted's vocal criticism because the shorts drag in the water. When Darmer ruefully explained that her son "resisted" wearing the team suit, Coach Ted said, "Lady, if you can't control this kid at this age, how are you going to control him when he's 16?"
Darmer said those words will influence her for life.
As for Coach Ted, he "turned back to the pool and got on with the practice."
Locke Darmer, 7, who last week swam to a first-place victory with teammates Connor Cohen, Ben Lawson, 8, and Kyle Jolas, 8, in the 4x25 breaststroke (1:34.38), has never again shown up at the pool wearing board shorts.