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When push came to shove, swimming didn’t really fit into Taylor Sargis’ plans.

Sure, she competed for Santa Rosa High, but she wasn’t into the sport enough to devote more time to it, so before her junior year, she dropped competitive club swimming from her list of activities.

“I didn’t enjoy it as much as other kids did,” she said.

Something had to give.

But now, as a freshman at Santa Rosa Junior College, Sargis is finding a new joy in swimming — especially in competing.

“I definitely found a new love for it,” she said.

And the time off could actually be paying dividends.

“I’m enjoying swimming longer, rather than getting sick of it,” she said.

Sargis has posted the fastest times in the state this season in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke and the 100-yard butterfly.

She owns the new SRJC record in the 200-yard breaststroke, making her a key component of a small but talented Bear Cubs squad that is prepping for the final weeks of competition.

A meet at Chabot College in Hayward this weekend is followed by the Big 8 Championship at Delta College in Stockton on April 20 and the state meet at East Los Angeles College on May 4.

The women’s squad has just 13 swimmers and two divers. The Bear Cubs have given up points every meet this season because they don’t fill out a full 18-athlete roster.

“At conference, the numbers game will hurt us, but at the state, when the fat trims, we’ll be in good position,” coach Jill McCormick said.

“We have young talent and (sophomore) leadership,” McCormick said. “I think we are going to be up there. I feel like we can get up in it and mess with people in the state meet, which will be fun.”

With the success of Hailey Vance — a freshman from Redwood Academy in Ukiah — and Lucia Mora, a sophomore team captain from Casa Grande, the triumvirate of female point-scorers seems set for the Bear Cubs.

Vance is ranked second in the state in the 100-yard backstroke, third in the 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard freestyle, and fourth in the 50-yard freestyle. Mora is right behind Sargis in the 100-yard breast and third in the 200-yard breast.

But it’s Sargis leading the way with four state qualifying times already in the books: the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke, the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard fly. She’s also a regular relay member.

“I enjoy racing. I enjoy competing,” she said.

That’s clear, McCormick said.

“She’s a competitor,” she said. “She likes to race more than she likes to practice. And when it’s go time, it’s go time. She doesn’t like to lose.”

Sargis acknowledges as much. She is working on embracing practice and ridding herself of her inner Allen Iverson.

“Practice is practice,” she said. “It’s not fun; it’s hard, it’s tough. It’s really hard on the body but at the end of the day, how you practice is what shows when you race.”

Sargis credited McCormick with crafting sets and workouts that are, while not fun per se, interesting and help keep athletes focused.

McCormick said that Sargis, a dancer and athlete who has technical skills to finely tune even the smallest movements of her body to make it go faster, has potential for big-time growth.

“I think she is just starting to scratch the surface,” she said. “She just slices through the water. She is a very smart swimmer technically — light and quick and on a tight line. You only have so much room for error in the shorter races.”

Sargis has yet to lose a head-to-head 200-yard individual medley race this season. But the heat is about to get turned up.

“When the stakes are higher, we’ll see how she does,” McCormick said.

After this weekend at Chabot, the stakes officially get higher.

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.”

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