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Foursome powers Sandsharks to second place
Ballos, Ochoa, Lines, Ballos.
Lines, Ochoa, Ballos, Ballos.
Ochoa, Ballos, Ballos, Lines.
It didn't matter the order. In four of the five races in the girls 13-14-year-old-division at the Imperial Valley Swim League Championships Saturday at the Valley Aquatic Center, some combination of twin sisters Abby and Emma Ballos, Elyssa Lines and Brianna Ochoa finished in the top four.
They helped the Yuma Sandsharks take second to Brawley 1,316-1,151 despite the Sunstrokers having 30 more swimmers at the event. The Sandshark boys topped the Sunstrokers 717-597.
Abby Ballos won the 50-yard fly, the 50 breaststroke and the 100 individual medley. Lines won the 50 back. Ochoa won the 50 free. The 50 breaststroke, in which Emma Ballos took seventh, was the only event the four didn't clog up the top spots on the scoreboard.
All four said they are good friends in and out of the pool. They are also teammates on the Yuma Heat, the year-round branch of Yuma Aquatics. For the Sandsharks, the atmosphere is much more laid-back and focused on fun.
“These girls are all my friends, and we've known each other the whole time we've been on the team,” Lines said. “We've known each other for six, seven, eight years — for most of our lives.”
Lines and Ochoa are entering their freshman years, with Lines going to Gila Ridge and Ochoa to Cibola. The Ballos twins are entering the eighth grade at Yuma Lutheran.
Both Emma and Abby Ballos said it makes no difference who among the group is pushing them in the pool — even if it is a sister.
“We joke around a lot, so it's fun” Emma Ballos said.”We never get upset if one of us wins. It doesn't really matter (if it's her sister).”
Ochoa said swimming next two her friends helps push her to better times.
“You feel a lot more supported because it's three of your best friends right next to you,” Ochoa said. “They make you want to go faster because touching the wall at the same time, similar times, is a really good feeling. That's what I was trying to achieve.”
The Sandsharks had a pair of five-time winners on the day, Joseph Lines and Talen Osborn. Logan Osborn went a perfect 4-for-4 but did not compete in the 50 breaststroke.
Sandshark coach Max Cristofori said he was impressed with Osborn's time of 27.47 in the 11-12-year-old 50 free.
“He went 27 on his freestyle, which is probably one of the best times, even in high school right now,” Cristofori said. “Then of course, me and him had a deal that if he broke 27, he'd get to do something with my phone, cover it in pickles essentially. It's all in fun. That really motivated him and I'm happy I was able to find a way to motivate him, to add some fun to something. That's what it's about — having fun and racing fast. And winning all five of you events, that's always fun.”
Joseph Lines, the brother of Elyssa Lines, also had a big day according to Cristofori, who on the whole said about 80 percent of the times recorded by the Sandsharks were personal bests.
“Having a swimmer like Joseph, he's from a big swimming family, he swims year round,” Cristofori said. “It was fun to see him race today, but he also had a teammate right on his back, Jon Pasquinelli. So watching those two race, that was fun.”
Cristofori said the Sandsharks were just outnumbered by Brawley, as the two dominated the meet. Imperial was third with 289 points.
“It all comes down to numbers,” Cristofori said. “You know what, I applaud Brawley. They brought 100 swimmers to Yuma, and found a way to win the swim meet. That's a small community, they have one swim team, and they get behind it.”
Sydney Tunell had four first-place finishes for the Sandsharks, losing out in the 50 breaststroke by less than 0.3 seconds.
“She raced her heart out,” Cristofori said. “In all five of her events she got near or her best or her best time, and in swimming that's what counts. Not only that, but she's going to the Far Western championships.”
Tunell's four firsts were pushed by Abby Ballos' three.
“I was just expecting to drop time and compete with my friends,” said Abby Ballos, motioning to her sister, Lines and Ochoa. “I think I did all right.”
In fact, all four swimmers said that was the main goal.
“I was expecting to have a good time because these meets are a lot of fun,” Ochoa said. “We're all here together and it makes it fun. I like to hang out all four of us together, because we're so close. We're all the same age so we talk about similar things. It's a lot of fun.”
A complete list of Yuma winners appears on Stats and Facts, Page D3