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.