A monster lurks, nestled in the quiet confines of San Anselmo's Sleepy Hollow community. It has many heads, arms, and legs and prefers the depths of the Sleepy Hollow Clubhouse pool. It is the Sleepy Hollow Sea Lions swim team.
Their numbers are staggering. The Sea Lions have won 17 straight championships and have not lost a dual meet in the Marin Swim League since 1999. That doesn't even mention the many Division I college swimmers the team has produced.
This year the season was no different. The Sea Lions have won every meet, outscoring their opponents by an average of 149 points. In the Marin Swim League championship meet, the Sleepy Hollow team outscored second place Scotts Valley by 400 points.
Quinn Gali, 13, of San Anselmo, leads the team in overall points. Her favorite event is the backstroke. She holds the third fastest time ever posted by a Sleepy Hollow swimmer in the 50-yard backstroke (13-14 year old division). She still has another year to break the record.
Bella Moynihan, 8, Keenan Dubois, 17, and Alexa Harrison, 12, also all share the distinction of being the high-point leaders in their age-groups.
"[Coach Mark Anderson] is amazing. He is an all around great guy in and out of the pool," said Quinn. She explained that the love of her coaches and the support of community -- especially her parents -- have kept her coming back year after year.
This is Anderson's 21st year as head coach. To say that the team has flourished under his leadership would be a gross understatement. But don't expect him to take any of the credit for himself. Anderson was quick to credit to his assistant coaches over the years.
"Most important is my wife Julie," he said. Julie, who swam at Cal and made it to the Olympic trials before starting her coaching career. She runs the PUPS program at the clubhouse. Each year she coaches 75 to 90 four- and five-year-olds, teaching the fundamentals of the sport. Between the swim team, the water polo program, and PUPS, the Andersons interact with nearly 700 swimmers yearly -- with almost all of them from the Ross Valley.
For many former Sea Lion teamates, their successes in the pool have continued long past their Sleepy Hollow roots. Drake High School's water polo and swimming teams, which are dominant in Marin County, are made up largely of former Sleepy Hollow swimmers. The boys' Drake water polo team, which Anderson also coaches, has won nine of the last 10 MCAL championships. Two swimmers and two water polo players from this year's graduating class will continue their sporting careers at the collegiate level. Liliana Alvarez will swim at UC Davis in the fall, while her twin sister will follow their older sister swimming for the Northeastern Huskies. Robbie Justice will play water polo at UC Davis and Kaitlyn Lo will join her older sister Alyssa on the Stanford water polo team.
Anderson estimates 15-20 of his swimmers in Sleepy Hollow swam in college -- with at least that many playing water polo in college as well. In 2006, the UC Davis water polo team had three former Sea Lions on their roster: Joe Smith, Dave Fahey, and Mike McGee. That team has consistently ranked in the top in10 the country. McGee twice received All American honors as goalkeeper for the Aggies.
Cullen Hennessey starts for the national runner-up UCLA water polo team. He has played more minutes than any other player on his team and has earned second-team All American honors.
On the girls side, Alyssa Lo, who is entering her junior year at Stanford, scored for the Cardinals in the their losing effort against USC in this year's National Championship game.
McGee, now the varsity boys' and girls' water polo coach at San Rafael High School, has nothing but fond memories of his time at the Sleepy Hollow Clubhouse with coach Anderson. "Mark has an amazing ability to draw kids in. He has an aura about him which people immediately recognize and latch on to. You want to compete and win for him," McGee said.
With these qualities as its backbone, Anderson has built a swimming and water polo empire in Sleepy Hollow. More than that, he has built a family. In fact, Anderson will officiate at the wedding of his assistant coach and former swimmer, Sean Hennessy, next month.
"Many of the kids have become my friends," said Anderson. "They continue to come back year after year to help coach and be a part of the program."