Sometimes, second can feel as good as first.
Once in a while, Jill McCormick can buy that. Case in point: She felt like her Santa Rosa Junior College women’s swim and dive team entered the California Community College Athletic Association state meet with the roster to mix it up among the top five programs in the state. But a closer look at the cold, hard numbers showed that while her women had the talent to contend, no one in the state was likely to topple the mighty behemoth that is Orange Coast College.
“Orange Coast was going to win by a long shot,” she said of the powerhouse southern California school.
The Pirates were simply too deep, too fast and too experienced at this state meet for anyone else to come close. So the Bear Cubs buckled down and got after every point they could grab in a tight race for dibs on places two through six at the three-day meet this month at DeAnza College in Cupertino.
And get after it they did. Orange Coast finished with 522 points to Santa Rosa’s 393 and Diablo Valley College’s 353.
“Anytime you beat everybody but Orange Coast, it feels like a win,” McCormick said.
The Bear Cubs’ second-place finish is the second second in as many meets. The Bear Cubs went into the state meet fresh off of finishing second to Sierra College at the Big 8 Championship April 19-21.
But that second-place finish, like the one to Orange Coast, calls for some context. Want a taste of how competitive the Big 8 Conference is? Four of the top five teams in the state came from the Big 8 Conference.
Still, none could topple the stacked Pirates squad at DeAnza. But the Bear Cubs came the closest.
“I have been doing this long enough that I knew we had a special group of women,” McCormick said.
And if by special, McCormick meant four returning All-Americans with state meet experience and a diver who had been to the big show as a freshman, then yes, she had a special group of women.
“This is a championship-caliber team,” she said of her women’s squad. “In a different year at a different time?
“It’s as hard to win the Big 8 Championship as it is state, so for us to get second at Big 8 and second at state, it was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll take it,’” McCormick said.
The young men’s team finished 11th in the state behind a breakout season and stellar final meet from freshman Mark Sidorenko.
But for this season and for this meet, it was the women’s turn to shine. And McCormick knew something was brewing with her squad on day one when they got a number of stellar performances, especially from their relay teams.
The Bear Cubs finished second to Orange Coast in the 200-yard freestyle relay, then did it again in the 400-yard medley relay. Then, on day two, they finished second to the Pirates in the 200-yard medley relay.
“Day one was our weakest day as far as point-scoring potential goes, so when they did better than they all thought” the meet was on, she said. “We were not supposed to do that. It was really exciting.”