Passing the torch: Sims to DiRado

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Three years from now, Maya DiRado will probably be where Amanda Sims was last Saturday — warming up for her final collegiate race, happy to be surrounded by loving teammates yet simultaneously sad to know the chapter is coming to an end.

Maria Carrillo grad Maya DiRado of Stanford was second in the 100-yard IM at last week’s NCAA championships in Austin. (Associated Press photo)

DiRado and Sims both excelled at the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships in Austin, Texas, last week, but they viewed the events through differing perspectives, DiRado the hotshot Stanford freshman and Sims the highly decorated Cal senior.

“It was a little sadder than I thought it would be,” Sims admitted over the phone Wednesday, on spring break at her parents’ house in Santa Rosa. “But the good part was going out with no regrets.”

What would Sims have to be regretful about? She reclaimed her NCAA title in the 100-yard butterfly on Friday, recording the fourth-fastest time in the history of the event at 50.49. Only two women ever swam it faster, Olympians Natalie Coughlin (twice, including the all-time record of 50.01) and Rachel Komisarz.

It was a resurgence for Sims, who won the 100 butterfly as a sophomore but finished third last year.

“Two years ago, I think I surprised myself, and surprised a lot of people,” the Montgomery High grad said. “Last year, I wasn’t necessarily comfortable in the role given to me, and I was not confident enough to accept that role. So I was a little shaken. This year I was able to be a little more aggressive.”

In addition to capturing the 100 fly, Sims took fifth place in the 200 fly and was part of the Cal 200-yard medley relay team that finished fourth. She also helped the 400 medley relay team make it to the final, then bowed out and watched her teammates win the event.

Considering her first-year status, DiRado was equally impressive. The Maria Carrillo alum was second in the 100-yard individual medley, third in the 400 IM, fifth in the 200 backstroke and part of Stanford’s entries in the 400 freestyle (fifth place) and 800 freestyle (ninth-place) relays.

By the time she had advanced through the ultra-competitive Pac-10 championships in late February, DiRado had a pretty good idea that she belonged in the same pool as the nation’s elite swimmers. She had long before surpassed her own expectations.

“I just wanted a smooth transition, really, and to commit fully to what the coaches wanted,” DiRado said of her goals as a freshman. “I had a lot of faith in the program. That was part of the reason I committed to Stanford. But the results, I was not really expecting that at all. It was a big surprise, and a good one.”

Despite the age difference, Sims and DiRado know one another well from club swimming in Santa Rosa. Each was congratulated by the other’s family after races in Austin. Sims, however, one-upped the kid in one regard: the Golden Bears won the team national championship, while the Cardinal finished fourth.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.