Empire Swimmers Among SRJC Best In State Meet

Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

Practices provide some of the toughest competition for Santa Rosa Junior College swimmers priming the Bear Cubs’ best for the state championships opening today.

Taking the Big 8 Conference title last weekend and out pointing the state’s best teams in earlier meets gives Santa Rosa confidence they can win the school’s first men’s championship.

“If everyone gives it their all, we’ve got a good chance to win state, which would be pretty awesome,” said Matt Stuhr, a team captain out of Maria Carrillo High. “The season is going better than expected. We’ve really pushed each other in the pool.”

A return to the podium would cap a strong season for the women, who won state titles in 2008 and 2009.

“We really push ourselves physically and mentally to get where we want to be,” said Jillian Clark, a team captain from Ukiah High. “It’s going to be a great meet for everyone.”

The men qualified 15 for the state meet, a deep contingent giving Santa Rosa plenty of scoring opportunities. A handful of teams have a legitimate shot at the state title.

“This year is shaping up to be an epic battle. It’s very deep and competitive on the men’s side. There is literally going to be a fourth place team this year that could have easily won state in years past. It’s that tight,” said Santa Rosa coach Jill McCormick, chosen conference coach of the year.

Leading the men is Stuhr, looking to defend his state title in the 500 freestyle and swim personal bests in the 200 freestyle and the 200 butterfly. Stuhr won the conference meet’s “Outstanding Performance” for setting a meet and school record time in the 200 freestyle.

“I’m hoping to go a lot faster at state,” he said.

First year swimmer Sean Malley, from Campolindo High, also set a meet and school record in the 100 backstroke at the conference finals.

A state title has been the men’s goal throughout several months of training and meets.

“That kind of gets everybody pumped to work hard throughout the year. Practices this year were a lot more focused. You could just tell people had more determination,” said Nick Johnson, a team captain from Ukiah High. “It’s kind of who wants it more right now, who wants to push through the pain and finish to the wall first.”

While the women are only taking nine, they are a talented group. Santa Rosa could finish higher at state than fourth place in the conference meet because the Bear Cubs have more higher ranked qualifiers than Big 8 rivals.

“I think we’re kind of the dark horse,” McCormick said.

Back to pace the women is Lauren Bugglin, from Campolindo High, in Moraga. Bugglin looks to improve on last year’s fourth in the 100 backstroke, and she also swims the 50 backstroke and the 50 butterfly.

Like most of Santa Rosa’s women, Clark aims to make the finals in her three events—50 and 100 backstrokes and 100 individual medley – and help roll up points.

“I’d love to see us get into the top three,” Clark said. “We’re a small team, but we’re all pretty quick.”\

2011 CCCAA Swim and Dive State Championships

Thursday through Saturday

Swimming– East Los Angeles College, Monterey Park

Diving–Pasadena City College