Danville girls water polo players have been golden in the pool these past 10 months.
Last fall, in a battle of Danville schools, San Ramon Valley High captured its first North Coast Section title since 2005. The 5-4 double-overtime victory in the Division I championship game was the Wolves' first over rival Monte Vista in six seasons.
While the revenge was sweet -- the win also snapped the Mustangs' streak of five consecutive NCS titles -- San Ramon Valley didn't have a problem cheering on two of its former rivals in the London Olympics.
Monte Vista graduates Maggie and Jessica Steffens helped the American women win their first gold medal -- a feat that had even the Wolves bursting with pride.
"The funny thing was whenever we lost to Monte Vista there would be some tears, but I'd try to point out that Maggie was going to play on the Olympic team one day," San Ramon Valley coach Heather Johnston said. "And they were OK."
Maggie Steffens, who was named MVP of the Olympic tournament, is just two seasons removed from high school water polo.
While she caused the Wolves nightmares in the pool for four years, she's now an inspiration.
"Maggie actually came to one of our scrimmages and met with all the teams that were there," Johnston said. "She brought her medal and let everyone touch it. She took pictures, shared laughs with them. Everyone will remember that moment."
Though the San Ramon Valley players are happy for the Mustang grads, the Wolves are also energized by their own recent success.
So is the balance of power shifting back to the Wolves' side of Danville? It's too early to tell, but the team certainly looks good on paper.
Though they lost East Bay Athletic League MVP Megan Rodriguez to graduation, San Ramon Valley returns five of seven starters. That includes goalkeeper Devon Gasparini, as well as field players Casey Pond, Grace Cochran, Mackenzie Flath and Kat Klass.
Boys cross country
Could it be that Campolindo is in a rebuilding phase?
The Cougars have finished as one of the top six teams in the Division III state meet race the past four seasons. But Campolindo has graduated its top five runners from the squad that placed fourth last year in the state meet.
However, don't count out the Cougars -- they return two runners with state experience and have been bolstered by a couple of transfers also with state experience.
Kevin Fong and Adam Hathaway both competed in the state championships for Campolindo last year as juniors. Cougars coach Chuck Woolridge also said that senior Rod Farbard and juniors Will Moran and Tyler Takata have stood out this preseason.
Walter Brennan, a junior who transferred from De La Salle, was the seventh man for the Spartans in last year's Division I state championship race. Aidan Goltra, a junior who transferred from Las Lomas, placed second in the 3,200 meters in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League track and field championships last season and ran in the Division III state cross country championships as a freshman.
Woolridge said that Brennan, whose family lives in Moraga, is eligible for the start of this season. But Woolridge said that Goltra will have to wait until Oct. 1 to compete per CIF rule.
-- Phil Jensen
Bishop O'Dowd compiled a 127-27 record and won four straight NCS championships from 2007-2010. Last year, though, the Dragons went 25-12 and lost in the quarterfinals of the Division III playoffs.
This season, the Dragons are motivated, have a good group of returning players and a lot of young talent coming in the program -- big reasons why they've earned the No. 1 spot in the Bay Area News Group's East Bay online rankings.
"We have a very talented young group of incoming athletes in all positions that will be receiving a lot of playing time, and the practices have been very competitive," Bishop O'Dowd coach Chad Salcido said. "The underclassmen are really making an impact on the team, and everyone is benefiting from it."
This doesn't mean that the Dragons are without their issues.
"Our lack of height against teams who have it can be a problem for us," Salcido said. "We will see if our experience with our upper class group can carry the team to a successful season against the bigger teams."
Salcido wants his team to create an identity for itself. Still, the Dragons should be the favorite in the West Alameda County Conference's Foothill Division, which includes Alameda, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Piedmont and San Leandro.
-- Matt Smith, correspondent