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Pata makes a name for herself
Ceres High varsity girls standout swimmer Julia Pata will compete at the Western Athletic Conference Championships tomorrow in Los Banos. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Just a freshman, Julia Pata has achieved elite status as a member of Ceres High School's varsity girls swim program.

"I've been here since 1990," Bulldogs coach Sue Garcia said. "She ranks in the top two, along with (2013 Ceres High grad) Haley Fisicaro. I'm very proud of her accomplishments so far."

"If you don't put in hard work, you're not going to get anywhere even if you have the talent," said Pata, who also plays water polo and basketball for the Bulldogs. "My goal is to earn a college scholarship."

Julia has posted Sac-Joaquin Section meet qualifying times in six individual events, including the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 200 IM and 100 back. Julia will compete at the frosh-soph level. She met varsity standards in the 50 free and 100 free.

Pata finished in first place in the 50 free with a time of 26.45 seconds at the 10th Annual Stanislaus County Championships on April 12. She also took fourth in the 500 free (5:47).

"I was really nervous at first," Julia said. "Once you get into the water, it goes away. The competition was challenging. I had girls right there with me the entire time. That pushed me to do even better."

Julia posted a perfect 12-0 record during the WAC dual-meet season. She competed against swimmers from Central Valley, Central Catholic, Livingston, Patterson, Pacheco and Los Banos.

"A couple summers ago, I heard about Julia through Dolphins coach Tracy Bull," Garcia said. "He's done great things for her. She loves to swim. She has an internal desire to compete with others and improve herself. She's a very humble young lady."

Pata started competing for the Ceres Dolphins recreational swim organization four years ago.

She developed into one of the top competitors in the Mid-Valley Swim League.

Julia successfully defended her 13-14 girls age group overall High-Point trophy at the MVSL Championships this past summer. She also placed fourth in the 100 free (57.19), seventh in the 50 free (27.08), and 10th in the 50 fly (29.39) and 100 IM (1:08.20) at the 13th Annual Sacramento Valley Meet of Champions.

"I could see great potential in her in the fifth grade," Bull. "She was a middle-of-the-pack swimmer. She didn't make a final. She burst onto the scene two summers ago at the age of 13. She won every prestigious meet we went to. She's still in her infancy in swimming. It's not surprising to me she's become a great swimmer. She's a perfectionist. I don't think she'll ever lose a WAC race."

It didn't take Pata long to make a name for herself at the high-school level.

"It's exciting," Julia said. "I don't know how else to explain it."

"She'll be considered the greatest swimmer at Ceres High School once she's done," Bull said. "She's got an unbelievable motor in her much like Haley. I think Julia will break every record Haley has with exception of the fly. Her work ethic is off the charts. She's a pool rat. She's never satisfied."

"I haven't really thought about that that much," Pata said. "I'm going to keep working hard. Maybe I'll place at sections."

Julia will compete at the Western Athletic Conference Championships on Thursday at Pacheco High School.

The meet will get underway at 3 p.m.

"She's going to do great," Garcia said. "I'm excited to see where she'll land when we go to sections."