GGHS Swim History
GGHS fielded its first competitive Boys Water Polo and Swim team in the1957-58 school year when Rick Rowland joined the GGHS faculty. A Big 8 Conference Champion and All American Swimmer at the University of Oklahoma, Rowland was assigned to coach both Water Polo and Swimming in addition to his teaching duties and, in a few short years, he transformed GGHS into a CIF power in both sports.
The school’s first Water Polo competition was in the Sunset League in the fall of the 1957-58 school year. While the Varsity had limited success with a 2-10 league record its first year, Elbert Yaw was selected to the All League 2nd team, the first Argo Water Polo player to be named All League. That spring (1958), the first Argonaut Swim team also competed in the Sunset League, with the “B” team winning the League title. The following school year (1958-59), the “C” Swim team also won the Sunset League title. These successes at the lower divisions of competition set the stage for success at the Varsity level which was to follow.
In the Fall of the 1959-60 school year, Charley Douglas was named Sunset League Co-Player of the year in Water Polo and, in the Spring of 1960, Douglas, Bill Watkins, and Rick Langdon were named All Americans in Swimming and Diving as the Argos finished 2nd in the Sunset League Dual meet competition..
In the Spring of the 1960-1961 school year, the Argo Varsity Swim team won the Sunset League Team Relays. Later that year the team defeated the perennial champion Newport Harbor HS Sailors in their Sunset League dual meet and won the Sunset League Meet Championship. The Argos advanced to the CIF Championships, finishing 2nd overall. Bill Watkins won the 50-yd freestyle event and was 4th in the 100-yd freestyle event while Rick Langdon placed 2nd in diving. Other point winners at the CIF Championships were Mike Forrest, Roger Mandersheid, and Charley Douglas. Four Argos were named High School All Americans that year for having recorded a top-ten time nationally in the 200-yd medley relay: Forrest, Watkins, Dennis West, and Tom Bortner. Coach Rowland had coached the Argonaut swimmers to the highest levels of success in high school aquatics competition in only four years.
Argo Swim team success continued in the 1961-62 school year. The Swim team captured the team title at the CIF Relays – the first Varsity CIF title ever won by any GGHS team. The 1961-62 squad again defeated Newport Harbor HS, this time in the Sailors’ own pool, their first home pool loss to any school since 1957. After repeating as Sunset League Meet champions, the team placed 3rd in the overall CIF Championships. Watkins placed respectively 2nd and 3rd in the 50-yd and 100-yd freestyle events, Forrest placed second in the 100-yd backstroke, West placed 2nd in the 200-yd individual medley, and Jim Rayle placed 3rd in the 100-yd butterfly. The Argos also finished 2nd in the 200-yd medley relay. Both West and Watkins received All American honors in 1962.
The following school year (1962-63) the Argonauts moved to the Freeway League. The Water Polo squad finished the regular season undefeated and advanced to the CIF playoffs, finishing 4th. Their overall record for the season was 19-2 and Mike Forrest was named All-CIF. In the spring of 1963, Forrest climaxed his aquatics career as GGHS by winning the 100-yd backstroke at the CIF Championships. Mike still holds the GGHS record in that event which he set in 1962 with a time of 56.7 seconds. Forrest and Bortner were again named High School All American Swimmers as were teammates Bill Derrig and Larry Lefner.
Since those beginning years under Coach Rowland, GGHS has continued to enjoy considerable success in the both Water Polo and Swimming with many Argos winning All American honors. GGHS also had another CIF champion in 1977 with Allen Gillman taking 1st place in Division 3A Diving. The list of All CIF Water Polo players also includes Rod Cade (1970 2nd Team), Jeff Connell (1971 3rd Team), Keith Colton (1972 3rd team), Don Caskey (1973 2nd team), and Tom Cook (1974 2nd Team). Other Water Polo players receiving All American honors includes Steve Shortridge (1969 3rd Team), Rod Cade (1969 4th Team and 1970 3rd team), Cliff Beaton (1970 HM), Jeff Connell (1970 10th team), and Pete Powers (1982 1st Team).
In discussing his aquatics experiences in the early 1960’s, Mike Forrest commented in a 2009 interview,
“Rick Rowland was a great guy, but he was a tyrannical coach. Workouts for me began for 1-½ hours in the early morning before school, then two hours in the afternoon, and often another two hours after school. Weekend workouts were frequent too, unless we were going to meets. Worse, when the pool equipment was broken down the coach saw that we worked out in the ocean ― may not sound like much, but on an early winter morning in 52 degree water with no prospects of a warm shower … that was torture! Working out and competition was year-round, too ― all four seasons.
“Coach Rowland had a knack for seeing that the team headlined the sports pages in the “Santa Ana Register” (precursor to the “Orange County Register”) every time there was a meet with the pictures, records, and wins. The team was great. And, the enjoyment equaled the effort. I was named to the All American swim team as were several of my teammates ― me for relays and the 100 yard backstroke. Moreover, a couple of teammates and I were also selected as High School All Americans for water polo. Equally important, I had the feeling that everyone on the team felt like winners.”
Coach Rowland departed GGHS in 1963 to continue his successful aquatics coaching career at Santa Ana Junior College, UC Santa Barbara, and Pepperdine University. He has coached numerous Collegiate All Americans and ten Olympians in his career. Though recently retired from head coaching, he is assistant coach for his son, Rick, at California Baptist University and is a professor of speech communications and campus ministry at Pepperdine where he earned a Masters degree. He recently visited the GGHS campus during the 2009 All Class Reunion and Picnic with some of his original Argo All Americans who regaled current Argo Aquatics athletes with tales of their exploits in those good ol’ days. Coach Rowland also proudly donated the 1962 CIF Relays 1st Place trophy back to GGHS where it is on display in the school’s Administrative Office.
The Argo Boy’s Teams have won League Championships in Water Polo in 1962, 1966, 1969-73, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1996-98, 2004-06 and 2013 and in Swimming in 1960-62, 1967, 1973-74, 1980-81, 1983, 1986, 1995-96, 1998, 2001-03, and 2010-14.
In addition to Mike Forrest who still holds the school’s 100-backstroke record, individual school swimming record holders include Jeff Ammann (1978) in the 50- and 100-freestyle and 100-breaststroke, John Bowman (1974) in the 200- and 500-freestyle, Jon Takach (1984) in the 100-butterfly, and Isaac Martinez (2010) in the 200-individual medley. Relay records were established in 1984 in the 200-medley, 1986 in the 400-freestyle, and in 2014 in the 200-freestyle. Although no longer competed at GGHS, Al Gillman’s 1977 CIF Championship score of 421.26 in diving is still the school record.
In addition to the Boys, Argonaut Girls have taken up competitive Swimming and Water Polo and have contributed to the winning aquatics tradition at GGHS. The Girls’ Water Polo team has won eleven out of twelve Garden Grove League titles from 2003 through 2014, placing second in 2012. The Argos placed 2nd in CIF Division IV in 2004 and Division 7 in 2011. Jeanette DeMeneces was named CIF Division IV Player of the Year in 2004 while Kaitlyn Frain received the same honor in 2011 in Division 7.
The Girls Swim Team has been League champions in 1967, 1979, 1980, 1982, 2002-04, 2007, and 2010-14. The performance of the team has been extraordinary during the recent period of 2010-2014 culminating with respective 4th, 3rd, and 3rd place finishes in 2012-14 CIF Division 4 Championships. In that timeframe, school records have been set in all eight individual and all three relay events. School records are held by Raquel Licea in the 50-freestyle and 100-backstroke (2014); Hannah Caskey in the 100-freestyle (2012), 100-breaststroke (2014), and 200-Inidividual Medley; Natalia Contreras in the 200-freestyle (2012) and 100-butterfly (2013); and Sofia Contreras in the 500-freestyle (2010). While her records have since been broken, mention must be made of Vivian Ma who set several individual school records during 2010-2011. Relay records were established in 2013 in the 200-medley, 2012 in the 400-freestyle, and in 2014 in the 200-freestyle. Coraleigh Hall holds the school diving record she set in 1980.
A new swimming pool for GGHS was completed and made ready for the 2009-10 school year for both Water Polo and Swim competition. While the old pool was run down and in need of replacement, it was home to much success for Argonaut aquatics since it was built in 1954.
Written by Chuck Lake, GGHS Class of 1968
Updated May 17, 2014