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BEAR CUBS AT STATE MEET

SRJC swimmers/divers and their rankings ahead of this week’s state championships:

Men

Drew Sipple: 500-yard free-1st; 1,650-yard free-1st, 200-yard butterfly-5th, relays

Bradley-John Erickson: 200-yard IM-4th, 100-yard breast-4th, 200-yard breast-3rd, relays

R.J. Williams: 50-yard free-7th, 100-yard butterfly-3rd, 100-yard free-17th, relays

Grant Howell: 500-yard free-12th, 400-yard IM-7th, 1,650-yard free-13th, relays

Nathan Parker: relays

Daniel Castagnola: relays

Kyle Bonzell: relays

Women

Taylor Sargis: 200-yard IM-2nd, 100-yard breast-2nd, 200-yard breast-3rd, relays

Lucia Mora: 500-yard free-28th, 100-yard breast-3rd, 200-yard breast-4th, relays

Hailey Vance: 50-yard free-15th, 100-yard back-3rd, 200-yard back-3rd, relays

Mary Lane: 200-yard IM-5th, 400-yard IM-4th, 1,650-yard free-16th, relays

Jasmine Alger: 400-yard IM-14th, 100-yard butterfly-12th, 200-yard butterfly-4th, relays

Annika Erickson: 200-yard IM-9th, 100-yard butterfly-17th, 100-yard free-17th, relays

Jordan Jayne: 400-yard IM-18th, 200-yard butterfly-15th

Elana Candiotti: 1 meter, 3 meter diving

Lizzie Walls 1 meter, 3 meter diving

Source: Santa Rosa Junior College


Santa Rosa Junior College sophomore Drew Sipple quit swimming when he was a 12-year-old in Park City, Utah.

He burned out; it was no longer fun. He found other things to do.

When a friend lured him back in his senior year of high school, he didn’t even know what were considered solid times anymore.

“I learned more,” he said. “I didn’t know what was considered fast anymore, so it became fun again.”

Now in his final season as a Bear Cub, the distance specialist is marrying a sense of fun with a full understanding of what is fast. He is.

Sipple is heading into the California Community College Athletic Association state swim and dive meet at East Los Angeles College Thursday ranked No. 1 in both the 500-yard and the 1,650-yard freestyle, and No. 5 in the 200-yard butterfly.

Sipple finished second in the 200 fly in the Big 8 Conference Championships and took first in both the 500 and 1,650 races. He’s a two-time conference champ in the mile — and coach Jill McCormick said no one in the state is close to the times he can produce.

Still, you have to race it to win it.

“You can’t fake that race,” she said. “You can’t just phone it in.”

And Sipple is enough of a competitor that McCormick said she doesn’t worry about his being ready come go-time. And that No. 1 ranking seems to motivate rather than intimidate, she said.

“He has, in the past, shown that when people push him, he does really well,” she said. “He’s a competitor and he’ll dig deep to do it. He’s a racer; he likes to compete.”

Sipple will be joined in Los Angeles by 15 fellow Bear Cubs hoping to make their mark at the state meet. Freshman Taylor Sargis, a Santa Rosa High grad, is ranked No. 2 in both the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke, while freshman Hailey Vance, who prepped at Redwood Academy in Ukiah, is ranked No. 3 in both the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke.

On the men’s side, sophomore Bradley-John Erickson, who graduated from New Technology High in Napa, is ranked No. 3 in the 200-yard breaststroke and No. 4 in both the 200-yard IM and 100-yard breaststroke.

Working with a small squad all season, McCormick said the Bear Cubs could do some damage over the course of the weekend.

“I think we are in a position where we could do some exciting stuff,” she said.

No swimmer, it seems, is in better position than Sipple.

He described that moment deep into a race when distance swimmers make their move as the point when things get interesting.

“Once it’s getting towards the end and it’s really starting to hurt, I look around for everyone to see who’s ready to race and have some fun,” he said.

That mentality will serve him well over three days of state-level competition, McCormick said. It’s no longer about times; it’s about winning.

“It’s about racing now. Who can get your hand on the wall first,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what your time is; it’s about racing and placing.”

A key to Sipple’s success as a distance guy is something more obvious in sprinters, McCormick said. Not only can Sipple grind out long swims at a strong, steady pace, but he can turn it on, too.

BEAR CUBS AT STATE MEET

SRJC swimmers/divers and their rankings ahead of this week’s state championships:

Men

Drew Sipple: 500-yard free-1st; 1,650-yard free-1st, 200-yard butterfly-5th, relays

Bradley-John Erickson: 200-yard IM-4th, 100-yard breast-4th, 200-yard breast-3rd, relays

R.J. Williams: 50-yard free-7th, 100-yard butterfly-3rd, 100-yard free-17th, relays

Grant Howell: 500-yard free-12th, 400-yard IM-7th, 1,650-yard free-13th, relays

Nathan Parker: relays

Daniel Castagnola: relays

Kyle Bonzell: relays

Women

Taylor Sargis: 200-yard IM-2nd, 100-yard breast-2nd, 200-yard breast-3rd, relays

Lucia Mora: 500-yard free-28th, 100-yard breast-3rd, 200-yard breast-4th, relays

Hailey Vance: 50-yard free-15th, 100-yard back-3rd, 200-yard back-3rd, relays

Mary Lane: 200-yard IM-5th, 400-yard IM-4th, 1,650-yard free-16th, relays

Jasmine Alger: 400-yard IM-14th, 100-yard butterfly-12th, 200-yard butterfly-4th, relays

Annika Erickson: 200-yard IM-9th, 100-yard butterfly-17th, 100-yard free-17th, relays

Jordan Jayne: 400-yard IM-18th, 200-yard butterfly-15th

Elana Candiotti: 1 meter, 3 meter diving

Lizzie Walls 1 meter, 3 meter diving

Source: Santa Rosa Junior College

“He’s very aware,” she said. “He’s not a big get-behind-and-chase-people-down kind of guy. Usually he likes to be in the thick of it. He has an exceptionally good kick and strong turns. A lot of distance swimmers at our level don’t have that. When he needs to switch gears, he can do that.”

Sipple, who has just a few years of top level swimming under his belt since his return to the sport, is looking to switch gears once again after the state meet.

He’s considering swimming at either the University of the Pacific or University of Utah next year.

How he fares in Los Angeles could affect his choice. That’s a lot riding on a couple of swims, but Sipple doesn’t seem to stressed.

Even in the toughest races, Sipple said he can find a zone.

“My mind just kind of blanks out, I have to say,” he said. “You just kind of zone out and it’s a time where you are not thinking about anything. It’s kind of quiet and peaceful in your head.”

There is a peace that comes knowing you have done what you can to put yourself in the best position to succeed, he said.

“You’ve done all the work,” he said. “For me, it’s just kind of, ‘I’m going to do what I need to do.’ I don’t really worry about the times and get stressed out, so I’m just trying to go swim and do the best I can and know that hopefully that’s going to be enough.”

McCormick praised Sipple’s dedication in the offseason and said she has seen it boost his confidence.

In one of the final home practices before the state meet, Sipple seemed the picture of calm.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s been a fun ride.”

If all goes well down south, the ride for Sipple — at least as a Bear Cub — should last a few more days.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”