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Driven to achieve
Pata, Ortiz lead CHS, CV swim programs
Bulldog junior Julia Pata has already achieved elite status as a member of Ceres Highs varsity girls swim program. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Already considered one of Ceres High School's all-time greatest female swimmers, junior Julia Pata will bolster her legacy during the 2016 season.

Just a sophomore, Leilani Ortiz will strive for continued excellence with Central Valley this spring.

Pata swept the 50 free and 100 free at the Western Athletic Conference Varsity Girls Swimming Finals for the second year in a row in 2015.

She placed fifth in the 100 free (55.58) and 13th in the 200 free (2:01.56) at the Sac-Joaquin Section Frosh-Soph Championships. She finished seventh in the 100 free and 17th in the 50 free in 2014.

"I'm really hoping to finish in the top three at sections," Julia said. "I've qualified for the 50 free and gone to the finals the last two years. I'll be pushed a lot harder this season because I'll be competing at the varsity level."

Pata has drawn comparisons to former Bulldog star swimmer Haley Fisicaro.

"I'm at a loss for words," Julia said. "I looked up to her. She was so great. To be put on the same level as her is amazing."

Pata recently started training with the Turlock Aquatic Club.

She also dedicates time to weight training.

Julia wants to improve her chances of earning a scholarship.

"College is on my mind," Pata said. "That's a large part of the reason I joined a year-round program. I need to be challenged more to achieve my goals. The harder I'm pushed, the faster I'll go. I have noticed a difference. I'm already at mid-season times. I don't like to lose. When it happens, I work harder."

Ortiz will try to qualify for the frosh-soph girls section meet in the 50 free and 100 breast.

"She got really close in the 50 free last season," Hawks head coach Sarah Willems said. "She's very determined. She's been swimming since she could walk. It's in her blood. Her mom coached my sister Lesley and me with the Ceres Dolphins."

Leilani placed third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 back at the WAC varsity finals her freshman year.

Ortiz has drawn comparison to former Central Valley standout swimmer Taylor Rogers.

"They're very similar," Willems said. "They're driven. They work hard, especially at practice."