College swimming: Hannis, DiRado aiming high

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Molly Hannis, who was a standout swimmer at Santa Rosa High, is now a college sophomore swimming for the University of Tennessee. (Photo by University of Tennessee Athletic Department)

Molly Hannis, who was a standout swimmer at Santa Rosa High, is now a college sophomore swimming for the University of Tennessee. (Photo by University of Tennessee Athletic Department)

A breakout college campaign has Molly Hannis aiming for the world swim championships.

Another super season for Maya DiRado puts her in position for this year’s biggest international competition.

Two of the Empire’s great prep swimmers look for peak performances in the U.S. trials at Indianapolis later in June. Qualify and they earn spots in Barcelona.

“I’ve had such a really good year. I’m shooting for my best times,” said Hannis, from Santa Rosa High.

Having competed in several international competitions, DiRado wants to add the world championships to her resume.

“It would be really awesome. I need to stay happy and relaxed to swim my best,” said DiRado, from Maria Carrillo.

Following successful NCAA seasons, Hannis and DiRado are swimming long-course meets to prepare for the trials. The NCAA All-Americans are confident going into the U.S. meet.

Following a strong sophomore season with the University of Tennessee team, Hannis is spending another summer in Knoxville to prepare for the trials.

“I’ve found a more efficient way to swim,” she said. “I tweaked little things in my stroke. It’s easier for me to swim faster.”

Fast, indeed, as Hannis swam to four All-American honors. Highlights included winning the NCAA consolation finals in the 100 breaststroke, a fifth place in the 200 breast consolation finals, and swimming on two Tennessee relay winners. The Volunteers’ 200 medley relay time was just off the American record.

“That’s the ultimate goal, to win a national championship,” Hannis said.

The one disappointment came in the 100 breast, reminding Hannis how the NCAA meet challenges athletes. While seeded second, she missed qualifying for the finals by one spot. Then she followed with the meet’s third fastest time in the consolation finals.

“I just had a bad morning in qualifying. That’s definitely motivation for next year,” Hannis said.

At the Southeastern Conference finals, Hannis took second in the 100 breast, first in the 200 medley relay and third in the 400 medley relay.

“I did make some nice strides. The coaching really helped me,” Hannis said.

Contributing in a huge way to Tennessee’s women placing third at the NCAA championships, Hannis wants to make a great year even better.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “I’m really excited. I definitely have a shot.”

Former Maria Carrillo swimming star Maya DiRado is now a junior at Stanford. (Photo by Associated Press, 2011)

Former Maria Carrillo swimming star Maya DiRado is now a junior at Stanford. (Photo by Associated Press, 2011)

Also among the best in the NCAAs is DiRado. Relaxed and reeling in great times going into the national trials, she wants to reach another international meet.

“Training’s been going really well,” DiRado said. “I just feel a lot stronger in the water.”

All-American in six NCAA events this season, DiRado again is one of the nation’s best in multiple events. Highlights at the NCAA championships included second in the 400 individual medley, third in the 400 IM and a pair of fourth places, in the 400 medley relay and 800 free relay.

At the Pac-12 Conference finals, DiRado claimed a title in the 400 IM and 800 free relay, with a second in the 200 back.

Yet she still has not peaked. DiRado is a veteran of international competition and wants more.

At the 2011 World University Games, in China, she won the 400 individual medley. Three times DiRado has competed with the U.S. national junior team in the world finals, including at Barcelona in 2010. She wants to get back to Spain.

“It would be pretty awesome,” DiRado said. “I feel like I’ve put myself in the best position possible.”

International meets put a premium on distance training, preparing swimmers for longer pools. Pace and strong legs are the goals.

“I’ve got the endurance. It’s nice to get in the rhythm of the meet,” DiRado said.

So good is this pair that they competed at the U.S. Olympic trials last summer.

Hannis plans to swim two more seasons and aim for the next Olympics. She sat out freshman year as a redshirt to prepare for major college swimming. On track to graduate in 2015, she would go into graduate studies to remain eligible and train for the 2016 Summer Olympic games.

Scheduled to graduate next spring, DiRado has not decided whether to train for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The next meet matters most.

“It would be nice to get back to Barcelona,” DiRado said.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

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