By Dixie Reid
Diana Contreras ’20 (Accounting) thought her roommates were driving her to brunch in Folsom on Jan. 23, and that her boyfriend would meet them there.
She was confused when they made a slight detour to Sac State’s Aquatic Center, on Lake Natoma. Then she saw DeAndre Wiltz waiting for her at the end of the dock.
“I said, ‘What is he doing out there?’ And I said, ‘You know that this is where Dre and I met for the first time?’ ”
She noticed that Wiltz was holding a small red box in his left hand.
“The dock felt like a runway and, honestly, I couldn’t stop looking at him all the way down that runway,” Contreras said. “When he knelt, that’s when the tears started coming. It was so perfect: the place, the weather, the soothing water.”
The Aquatic Center, a program of Associated Students Inc., has been the destination for recreational water sports, competitions, and children’s summer camps for the Sacramento State community and general public for 40 years. It’s also Sacramento State’s version of “The Love Boat.”
Since 1984, when associate director Cindi Dulgar came on board and started keeping records, 45 couples who met through the center, either as staff or participants in water programs, have married.
The first proposal took place in a canoe in the middle of Lake Natoma, Dulgar said. A water-ski instructor presented to his love, a summer camp counselor, the engagement ring he had hidden in his backpack.
The first couple to marry, in 1984, were a summer camp instructor and a Hornet football player. Their children attended Aquatic Center camps.
“I told Dre, ‘When your kids are 7, they’ll have to come to summer camp here, where mom and dad met and got engaged,’ ” Dulgar said. “He laughed.”
In the summer of 2016, Contreras, who is from Santa Rosa, and Wiltz, who grew up in Elk Grove, attended Sac State’s New Student Orientation. That Hornet rite of passage traditionally culminates with Frosh Night at the Aquatic Center, a 15-mile bus ride from campus.
“I just wanted everybody to have a good time,” said Wiltz, who earlier had taken on the lifeguards in a water bucket battle.
“I saw her standing on the dock, talking to a friend. And I said, ‘You should participate in the water sports.’ She said, ‘Well, I plan on staying dry today.’ I kinda laughed and got a bucket of water — the biggest bucket I could find — and ended up dumping it on her and her friend,” he said.
Contreras had straightened her long hair that day and had no intention of getting it wet.
“I always wonder what really went through his mind to pour a bucket of water over me,” she said. “I was thankful afterward, because I started having fun, and Dre made sure to pop up a lot during Frosh Night.”
The two soon became close friends and had four classes together their first semester at Sac State. They began dating a year later.
When the day came to propose, Wiltz knew it had to be at the Aquatic Center.
“I wanted to go back there, because it’s where we met, and we tell people the water bucket story all the time. It’s one of our favorite memories,” said Wiltz, who works for Apple and is finishing up one class before his graduation from Sac State in May.
He got permission from the center’s staff and then conspired with the three roommates to deliver Contreras, who had dressed up for what she thought was brunch at the Cliff House. Family and friends hid on the nearby beach, awaiting her arrival.
As soon as they knew she said “yes,” they all ran into the open and cheered.
“We have lots of friends and family who have seen our love story write itself over time,” said Contreras, an accountant at Balarsky & Beebout CPAs. “And I love the fact that he took me back to the spot where we met, where we started a new chapter of our lives that we didn’t know we would experience together — and now we start another chapter.
“The Aquatic Center,” she said, “is a big part of our love story.”
The couple are considering a May 2022 wedding. Location to be determined.