New MC aquatics coaches pooling talents

slynch@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 31, 2013 

Susan Miller says she feels no pressure.

Former Merced College women's water polo and swim coach Bill Halpin cast a big shadow, with contributions to Merced aquatics that won't be forgotten any time soon.

But Miller is concerned less about extending the school's Bay Valley Conference title run to a sixth straight year, and more about laying down a new foundation.

Halpin's former assistant will share coaching duties with MC women's water polo coach Karin Umemura. Miller said the blending of backgrounds has worked well so far.

"We each have our strengths," Miller said. "Karen's background is obviously more water polo, and I'm more swimming.

"It's worked out well, because she's handled the conditioning during our morning workouts and I've focused on the technical stuff in the afternoon practices.

"We're still figuring things out, but it's been a lot of fun."

The biggest obstacle facing the new coaches might be numbers.

The women's team only returns four swimmers, led by Emily Heindel.

Miller said there's a pretty strong freshman contingent, however, that could make an instant impact.

Kellie Ketchum (Los Banos) and Maria Lima (Dos Palos) have been particularly impressive early.

Miller and Umemura should have a far better idea of what they have after today, with MC traveling to Santa Rosa for a season-opening quad meet today.

The teams will then participate in the NorCal Relays on Saturday.

"It's always a good first test," men's coach Scott McCall said. "Santa Rosa is always good and a couple of the other schools have been getting better every year, so you quickly see where you stand and what you need to work on."

Unlike the women's team, McCall has experience in bunches.

He's got seven sophomores, led by the talented duo of Connor Greene and Ryan Randall.

MC has had a nice run of impressive showings at the state tournament and McCall believes the pair will be right there in the mix this year.

"Connor is just an animal in the water," McCall said. "The way he trains sets the high for everyone.

"Ryan just keeps getting steadily better, and I think they'll be around the state marks all season.

"I like this group of kids we've assembled. They're working hard and should have a good shot at keeping the conference streak going."

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