The undercurrents that began as ripples are turning into a tsunami.

The Vacaville Waves Swim Club has been around since the 1960s. The non-profit, based out of the Walter Graham Aquatic Center in Vacaville, is a USA Swimming year-round competitive team offering high-quality professional coaching and technique instruction for all ages and abilities.

The Vacaville club’s Masters swimming team made an excellent showing on June 1 at the U.S. Masters Swimming Middle Distance National Championship at Lake Berryessa. One of the club’s swimmers, Breanna Schafer, won the national championship for the women’s 18- to 24-year-old age group in the 2-mile.

The Masters encompasses age groups from 18 on up through seniors. In each age group at Berryessa, competitors finishing in the top ten earned medals. The Vacaville squad brought home eight.

Barbara Lightfoot-Nielsen finished second in the women’s 65-69 age group.

Mark Frazier grabbed second and David Stewart seventh in the men’s 60-64 age bracket.

In the men’s 40-44 division, Nicholas Hanley finished fourth.

Tunisia Batzer took sixth place and Jennifer Ramos finished eighth in the women’s 35-39 bracket.

In the women’s 55-59 group, Terri Russick placed ninth.

Head coach Matthew Rankin, now in his fifth year at the helm, has set the bar high, and his team is responding in a big way.

“This is like the NBA for swimming,” said Rankin, who was on the USA Swimming National Team for eight years and an Olympic alternate. “This is like the NFL. This is USA Swimming. We have a beginning, pre-competitive group that gets adjusted to learning how to swim. And then after that it’s full-on. Our goal is to make these kids savvy, get them into a program, motivate them, teach them the skills. Our ultimate goal is to make these kids as fast as they can and have fun doing that.”

The club has a summer team for ages 5 to 18 as well as a year-round squad. Masters is open to swimmers ages 19 and up. The club generally has about 200 members throughout the year, 100 or so in the Masters program and 75 to 125 on the summer team.

“The Masters program is a great avenue to continue to do what you love,” Rankin said. “They’re balancing their work and their family. Some are just discovering the sport. Some Masters swimmers swam a mile in open water. That’s a breakthrough moment for them.”

He explained why he got into coaching.

“I wanted to work with young adults, children that are highly motivated, goal-driven, who want to get up to that level,” he said. “I’d like to produce some Olympians in this place. … I’m asking kids to do some stuff above and beyond what they thought they could do. We’re chasing dreams. We’re going to do something.”

The highly committed are waking up before 5 a.m. for an early morning practice before school, then returning after school for a second session, five days a week. They are practicing and competing on some weekends as well.

“If we are going to be competitive on the national or world scene, you have to commit to that level,” Rankin said.

He is very pleased with the results so far.

“It’s a great team,” he said, “I’m so proud of what this team is doing, Masters or otherwise. … We’re breaking on the scene. Here we come. We have a statement to make.”

Vacaville will be front and center on the swimming map March 6-8 when the club hosts the Sierra Nevada Swimming 2020 Short Course Championship at the Graham Aquatic Center.

Schafer is one of Rankin’s coaches, responsible for a 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Masters session during the week. In the afternoons she coaches the Green Group, ages 5-11. First and foremost is teaching the children water safety. Then her job is to get them ready for competition. They learn freestyle and backstroke, turns, dives, floating. Then they move into the competitive group, where they will also learn the butterfly and backstroke.

Schafer swam the 500 meters, the longest high school race, for Vacaville High for four years. This was her third year swimming the two-mile at Lake Berryessa. She did not train in open water this year because she has been swimming the 1,650 meters (about one mile) for Solano College.

Her win at Berryessa was amazingly close for a 2-mile race — she won by one second. All the age groups from 18-39 swam together. Schafer actually won the race in the last four feet or so. When swimmers emerge from the lake, the finish banner is on the shore next to the water, with a short mat for them to run over the finish line. She was just a little quicker on the mat than her opponent. Schafer didn’t find out until after the race that the second-place finisher was in her age group.

Her next challenge is in July in the Trans-Tahoe race. Six swimmers for the Vacaville club, with a boat alongside, will swim 30 minutes each, then recycle with 10 minutes each until they cross the lake, a distance of 10 miles.

A graduate of Ohio State University, Schafer is interested in nursing and is taking classes at Solano in preparation for that degree. But she hopes to keep coaching, if possible, even after becoming a nurse. And she will definitely keep swimming.

“I never want to stop swimming,” she said. “I like the feel of the water. I like to go underwater and there’s no sound. The water’s very calming. … It makes me happy. I’ve not found something I love more.”

As a non-profit, the Vacaville Swim Club looks to the community for support and sponsorships.

To help in that regard or for any questions about the club, email Matthew Rankin at