1 of 2
By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian
2 of 2
By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian
BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
For the 800 kids competing in this weekend's Central California Swimming Junior Olympic Short Course Championships, the event is a chance to showcase the results of countless hours spent practicing in the pool.
Becoming a top-tier swimmer, at any age, requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
And not only by the swimmers themselves
Behind almost every 6-18 year old competing in the four-day meet at Bakersfield College's William A. Wheeler Aquatics Center is a supportive family and dedicated coaches that helped them get there.
Parents who faithfully shuttled kids back and forth to countless early morning practices and far away swim meets. Grandparents and aunts and uncles who boisterously cheer them on as they competed. Instructors who tirelessly helped fine-tune their technique and develop their stamina.
But in the end, the effort of all involved is usually worth it as the child gets to have fun while learning many valuable life-lessons.
In some cases the rewards go beyond that.
They certainly have for Highland High senior Taylor Solorio, who, after 10 years as a club swimmer, recently signed a letter of intent with San Jose State.
Solorio believes her decade spent as member of Bakersfield Swim Club and Bakersfield Aquatics Club was crucial in her getting fast enough in the pool to be noticed by college recruiters.
"It's made me the swimmer I am today," Solorio said. "I wouldn't be here without my club and my amazing coaches. ... Getting into a Division I school on a partial swimming scholarship; that was my dream 10 years ago when I started swimming. To have achieved that, that's a great accomplishment for me."
Solorio was The Californian's All-Area High School Girls Swimmer of the Year following a junior season at Highland in which she was the Central Section Division II champion in both the 50 free and 100 free.
Her winning time of 52.42 seconds in the 100 free set a Division II record.
According to Solorio, the competition level in the 15-18 age group of this weekend's Central Cal Junior Olympic Short Course Championships, where she is entered in seven individual events and two relays, is comparable with that of the D-II "valley" meet.
Solorio has already racked up multiple first-place finishes in what will likely be her final Junior Olympics competition.
On Friday, she anchored Bakersfield Aquatics Clubs' (15-18 girls) winning 800-free relay team.
"My team came from behind and won," Solorio said. "It was really nice."
Solorio credits her parents, in particular her mom, Renee Solorio, and coach Charlie Pike for her success.
"She has sacrificed even more than I have even though she hasn't had to have gone through the practices," Taylor Solorio said of her mom. "When I was younger she drove me to every single practice. Drove me to every single swim meet. She calls herself my personal chauffeur, which was at the time. She has just supported me the whole way through my swimming career."
Pike, who currently serves as the Bakersfield Aquatics Center and Highland High head coach, has been with Solorio through most of her swimming career. too.
"I owe him a lot," Taylor Solorio said. "... He's very into stroke and technique stuff, and that's very important when you're swimming. But, also, he's a very easy guy to get along with. He's always pushed me harder. And every time I ever got a good time, he's always looking toward to the future to see what I can do next. I feel like he really believes in my potential even more than I do sometimes. So it's really nice to have that."
Renee Solorio is equally grateful to Pike, calling him "one of the best swim coaches in all of Bakersfield."
A former Garces High and YMCA swimmer, Renee Solorio is extremely proud of all Taylor has accomplished, but she says she most admires her daughter's dedication and grit.
"She doesn't quit," the mother said. "She's just keeps going. Sometimes I've said, 'You're sick, please don't go' and she's said 'No'. She has only missed a handful of practices in all the years that she's swam."
Renee Solorio feels all the time and energy in getting Taylor through these past 10 years of swimming has been well worth it, though it wasn't always easy.
"I was so happy when she was finally able to drive," Renee Solorio said.
Both mother and daughter believe that kids contemplating becoming swimmers and possibly joining a swim club should go for it.
"I would say it's a great opportunity and they shouldn't pass it up," Taylor Solorio said. "'Swimming is fun. You get to meet lots of new people and make lots of friends. It's tough but it's very enjoyable and I believe every kid should give swimming a shot."