Chances are, during a Sonora High School girls' meet, that the swimmer gliding through the water toward an individual or relay victory is Alison Gourley, Katie Baier or Melisa Hough.
The three are the power plant of a powerhouse team that has won the last two Valley Oak League championships, this year's by such an overpowering margin that no opponent came closer than 48 points to the Wildcats. The performances of The Union Democrat's Athletes of the Week in title-clinching victories over Sierra of Manteca and Buhach Colony of Atwater were typical.
In a 108-60 defeat of Sierra on April 7 at Sonora Pool, they combined for four individual victories and a relay win while taking on a couple of national-caliber opponents. In a 134-33 rout of Buhach on Friday at Livingston High to cap Sonora's second straight undefeated dual-meet season, they won six individual events and helped the Wildcats sweep all three relays.
"I admire their work ethic so much," Sonora coach LaDeane Hansten said. "They like to push each other, and it's just incredible what they do for the team. And what a joy they are to coach. They always have their minds in it."
The three have been swimming with and against either other for years in the Tuolumne County Aquatics program and at Sonora High. They acknowledge a bit of intrasquad competition.
"They're definitely good practice teammates," Gourley said. "They work really hard and we have good, healthy competition."
"We swim head-to-head sometimes," Baier said. "But we're together as a team. It's not just the first-place people who win meets. You need depth, too, and we have it."
"We push each other to be better, and it makes us closer friends," Hough said. "But I don't like to race against them. I get really nervous, but it's more fun than the (VOL) competition."