Watching these kids in the pool, it’s hard to believe that the Sto. Domingo siblings have been swimming for only 18 months.
“They started as non-swimmers, scared of the water,” said Don Lane, head coach and founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Pool’s Blue Dolphins youth swim team.
With the fear long gone, 8-year-old Mia dominated last month’s Zone 3 Pacific USA Swimming Championships held in Santa Rosa, and older brother Noa was nearly as impressive.
Three seconds separated Mia from the second-place finisher as she won the 8-and-under 50-yard freestyle. She swept the 25-yard and 50-yard breaststroke events and capped off the meet with a victory in the 100-yard individual medley.
Ten-year-old Noa brought home three second-place and one third-place ribbons in the meet that featured top swimmers from San Francisco, as well as eight counties north of the Golden Gate.
Dad Ronald played some basketball in the Philippines and mom Christine played high school volleyball growing up in Los Angeles. Four-year-old sister Ava wants to be a baseball player. The swimming torch for the family, residents of San Francisco’s Crocker Amazon neighborhood, is carried by Noa and Mia.
Noa has his eyes on another torch, an Olympic one, though he’d settle for a college swimming scholarship to start.
The Highlands Christian School fifth-grader realizes that it’s not an easy road to reach these lofty goals.
“A lot of practice, doing pushups every day and eating healthy,” Noa said. “I used to eat a lot before.”
Mia, a third-grader at Highlands, has developed her own premeet ritual.
“Before I swim, I eat Skittles, just because candy makes me go fast,” said Mia, who is also known to polish off a large, juicy steak after a meet.
Coach Lane, who organized the Blue Dolphins in 2002, a year after the Bayview district pool opened, exudes passion and enthusiasm for the program and the kids.
“They are self-motivated, self-directed,” Lane said. “They will try whatever we ask.”
And much is asked of the swimmers in the five-day per week training sessions. After completing 120 laps of butterfly in 60 minutes, they peer up at their coach from the water, ready for their next assignment.
Lane smiles as he expresses his firm belief that Mia was a fish, possibly a marlin, in her past life.
“Mia has a natural friendship with the water,” Lane said. “She doesn’t have any flaws, and her brother is right behind her.”
WHAT: MLK Jr. Swimming Pool Blue Dolphin youth swim team
WHERE: 5701 3rd St., San Francisco
INFO: (415) 822-2807 or www.sfrecpark.org/rec-swimmingpools/aspx