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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 2:29 am | Fair 44º


Santa Maria Celebrates Olympic Silver Medalist Josh Prenot

Youths and adults seek autographs from, pose for pictures with swimmer at Downtown Fridays

Olympic silver medalist Josh Prenot was celebrated Friday night in Santa Maria, where he grew up and began his swimming career. Click to view larger
Olympic silver medalist Josh Prenot was celebrated Friday night in Santa Maria, where he grew up and began his swimming career. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

To cheers of camera-wielding and flag-waving well-wishers, the Santa Maria Valley celebrated Olympic silver medalist Josh Prenot on Friday night.

Elected officials and Santa Maria Swim Club members, in addition to Allan Hancock College cheerleaders and complete strangers, were on hand to welcome Prenot home.

He earned a silver medial in the 200-meter breaststroke event at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August. 

Mayor Alice Patino read a proclamation declaring “Josh Prenot Day.”

“I never thought I’d have a day name after me in the city, but it’s awesome to be back here,” he said. “I love Santa Maria. I love the Central Coast.”

He noted the role of the Santa Maria Swim Club in developing his talents.

“It’s a great program for the kids. I had a great time progressing through the ranks. It took me to great places. So, you can support those guys and they can keep doing great things,” Prenot said.

Nohemy Ornelas, associate superintendent and vice president of student services at Allan Hancock College, gave Prenot the Bulldog Spirit Award after the cheerleaders led the crowd in several rounds of “J-O-S-H. We’re proud of you.”

Lots of fans turned out Friday night to celebrate the accomplishments of Josh Prenot, a Santa Maria swimmer who won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics. Click to view larger
Lots of fans turned out Friday night to celebrate the accomplishments of Josh Prenot, a Santa Maria swimmer who won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Prenot is a former Bulldog, Ornelas said.

“Whether you know it or not, Josh, you are a true inspiration for our students and our community,” Ornelas said, adding he excelled in academics as well as athletics.

“He’s demonstrated that hard work as a scholar and as an athlete truly pays off,” Ornelas said, adding he will always be a Bulldog.

In addition to the Spirit Award, she gave him swimming caps, a baseball hat and sweatshirt representing Hancock College.

Joyce Howerton, aide to state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, presented Prenot with a certificate and praise for his accomplishments.

“She just wanted me to say, Josh, how proud you’ve made all of us in your community for the hard work you’ve done,” Howerton said. “This isn’t easy. You don’t do what Josh did by just waking up and thinking. I’ll go out and swim a little bit. He’s worked hard. He’s accomplished to much.”

Swim Club coaches recalled 11-year-old Prenot’s desire to be on an Olympic team, and daily pursuit toward achieving the goal.

“I’ve never worked with an athlete with more heart, work ethic and character,” said assistant coach Steve Lougee.

As Prenot stood on the stage, his parents, Bill and Tammy Prenot, watched with pride, recording the recognition.

Afterward, Prenot was mobbed as he signed autographs and posed for pictures.

Prenot has one more semester before completing his studies at UC Berkeley. However, he has taken a break this fall, and is looking toward to time with family and friends after the whirlwind leading up the Olympics.

A similar Downtown Fridays celebration was held to greet Santa Maria Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas, who also was welcomed by a large crowd upon his arrival at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

Both were recognized during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Santa Maria City Council.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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