Rancho San Dieguito Swim Team receives Silver Medal Club Excellence honor from USA Swimming

Swim team
(L-R) Mason Morris, Taylor Lyon, Mia Kragh, RSD Head Coach Joe Benjamin, Eric Workman, Mateo Parker

Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito’s Rancho San Dieguito (RSD) Swim Team was named one of this year’s Silver Medal Clubs in USA Swimming’s National Club Excellence Program. USA Swimming runs the national competitive swimming program for the country. The organization also selects the youth who go on to swim in Olympic games. On average only 200 club teams out of more than 3,100 nationwide receive medal recognition from USA Swimming, and RSD has placed in the competition every year for the past 10 years. This year marked RSD Swim Team’s advancement to silver medal status.

“This year’s silver level award is especially rewarding as it is the result of a true team effort from dedicated coaches and committed athletes. The positive environment at RSD helped us reach this accomplishment,” said Joe Benjamin, director of Aquatics and RSD head coach.

Club Excellence medals are awarded to teams producing the next generation of elite under-18 swimmers-- those bound for college-level swimming and beyond. RSD Swim Team is known for being a pipeline to college-level competitive swimming. Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito’s Chief Executive Officer Marineke Vandervort swam for Colorado State University Women’s Division 1 Swimming and Diving Team, and this year 12 graduating members on RSD will be swimming for college teams: Drew Schmidt at Claremont Mckenna College; Carlos Munoz Renteria at Brown University; Charlotte Zhang at MIT; Christy Douglas at University of California Davis; Ethan Hildesheim at University of California San Diego; Kevin Brunia undecided; Kyle Wong at Amherst College; Mason Morris at University of Southern California; Mateo Parker at University of Southern California; Mia Kragh at University of California Berkeley; Nicole Douglas undecided; and Taylor Lyon at California Polytechnic State University.

RSD swimmer Mia Kragh will be swimming for the University of California Berkeley on full scholarship in the fall. On what has helped her achieve her current swim goals, Kragh said: “The coaches know how to push us, and they believe in us. They’ll give us sets and we will all be staring at each other and thinking there is no way this is humanly possible. Then we work with it and end up surprising ourselves.”

On what makes RSD a unique team, Kragh said, “We’ve really learned to enjoy the process. We are always joking with each other and the coaches are in on our jokes. We have learned how to have fun and make light of situations.”

This year the RSD coaches took extra measures to make sure their swimmers stayed motivated. They put together a speaker series featuring swimmers such as two-time Olympic medalist Kathleen Baker who gave a personal talk to the team about resilience and how to embrace challenging times.

RSD’s next big event is a series of inter-squad competitions leading up to the Olympic Trials for qualifiers. The coaches have high aspirations for their swimmers.

Said, Kragh, “Our goals are never too big to them. They are always right there supporting us, and they are right there with our goals.”