By Devin Bradshaw
The four were laughing and talking as they gathered around Las Positas Hawks pool under the blistering Tri-Valley sun.
Hannah Tsui. Brooke Christian. Gabriela Perez Del Rio. Negin Tehranian-Torgabeh. A unique quartet of talent unified by a common goal, their bond could make all the difference in the pursuit of a championship.
They are the Las Positas Hawks’ women’s medley relay team. In the water, these four women are as tight as can be.
“Every single time we’re behind the blocks in our relays we’re laughing,” said Perez Del Rio, the lone sophomore of the four. “It’s always fun. We’re all pumped up and ready. We’re just dancing behind the blocks and having a good time.”
Team Chemistry might be the most important thing in sports. It’s something so simple, yet so hard to achieve. It’s the unspoken language between teammates, the willingness to sacrifice for one another, the strategic way the pieces of a team connect.
It’s Warriors guard Stephen Curry making a no-look pass to the corner because he knows Klay Thompson will be there. It’s Giants catcher Buster Posey calling exactly the pitch ace Madison Bumgarner was thinking. It’s Raiders quarterback Derek Carr changing Amari Cooper’s route with a pre-snap stare.
None of these teammates are known for being incredibly close off the court or diamond or field. But on it they know each other like the back of their own hands. Athletes don’t have to be friends away from the sport, as long as when it’s go time the connectedness is genuine and strong.
These Hawks have that chemistry. They knew there are was something special the first time they jumped in the pool.
“Since the very first swim meet,” Christian said, turning her attention to Perez Del Rio, “it was like I didn’t even know you. But, ‘Hi. I’m Brooke.’”
Christian swims the backstroke, the first leg. Tsui follows with the breaststroke. Perez Del Rio handles the butterfly and Tehranian-Torgabeh is the freestyle anchor.
Their individual skills in the pool combined with their chemistry has given the Hawks state championship hopes. They seem to be getting stronger and stronger, aiming right at a top-3 finish.
The Hawks started off hot at the Coast Kickoff on Feb. 16 at West Valley College, logging a time of 1:58.25 in the 200 Medley Relay. They beat the next school by over a minute.
The Hawks continued with solid performances in the water, staying consistent throughout their meets. This is surprising being that the team is so young and new. There was no team building, no introductions. They were thrown together and the rest, might be history.
“The women in particular have come a long way since the beginning of the season,” coach Jason Craighead said. “The majority are freshman but we have a lot women that are good at different things. So it’s figuring out the right combination throughout the year and what pieces of the puzzle make things work.”
LPC has seemed to figure it out in a big way at the end of the season and seem to be peaking at the right time heading in to the State Championship Meet. They lowered their time by over two seconds.
In the 2018 American River College Pentathlon, on April 6, the Hawks foursome took first place with their best time of the year, 1:56:17 — besting American River and Sierra College.
“We still have to get sharper,” Craighead said. “We can alter the order to maximize our benefit.”
Las Positas women finished fifth in the 2017 state meet. Sierra College took the women’s state championship.
The Hawks’ medley relay team took fourth with a time of 1:50.52 — nearly three seconds behind the state champion relay squad from San Mateo (1:47.71). Perez Del Rio swam the third leg on last year’s medley relay team.
The difference for the hawks will be their attentiveness to the fundamentals and being at their best when the championships arrive.
“If we’re on top of our game, everybody else needs to be,” said Craighead “Otherwise we’re going to pass some people up.”
It could be their youthful fearlessness. Or their respective talents. It might also be their bond, their willingness to be their best for each other.
Craighead said they aren’t doing a lot of individual events. They are only swimming for each other. So they should be well rested while other medley relay teams will have swimmers competing in individual events.
Like the Golden State Warriors, they stay loose and have fun with each other. But can they continue handle their business in the pool?
It’s almost time to find out. The state championships are May 3-5 at De Anza College