By John Philip Wyllie
It is fairly unusual for a sophomore to captain a high school athletic team, but then Chris Sanchez is no ordinary athlete. As a Bonita Vista High freshman last season, Sanchez broke the school records for the 100 meter backstroke and the 200 meter freestyle. Now the brightest star for the defending Mesa League champions, Sanchez hopes to help coach, Steve Wiggs lead the Barons to back to back championships and on to CIF competition.
“Maybe I took a leap (of faith) by appointing him captain as a sophomore, but he gets a lot of respect from all the other swimmers, even the juniors and seniors,” Wiggs said. “He has taken on the leadership role and he has the boys rallying around him. He qualified for the CIF finals in both of his events, so there is nothing like success to build respect.”
Sanchez’s first love was baseball, but his career on the baseball diamond came to an abrupt end after only two years.
“I played baseball when I was little, but I threw out my shoulder pitching when I was eight,” Sanchez recalled. Shortly thereafter, he began swimming. He has excelled in it ever since.
“Swimming requires a team effort, but it is more of an individual sport,” explained Sanchez. “You can’t just decide to go once in a while, you have to be dedicated. There are morning and afternoon practices, weightlifting and dry land exercises. If you slack off, it takes twice as long to catch up, so you have to be dedicated and always keep in mind what you are trying to accomplish.” In Sanchez’s case, that is quite a lot. He hopes to shave a few seconds off his already record-setting 2003 times. He would also like to finish first or second in his events at the annual post-season CIF competition.
“I finished in sixth place in the (CIF) 200-freestyle and in fourth place in the 100- backstroke (last year). I’m ranked third right now in the 200-freestyle, but hopefully with the training I am getting, I will finish first or second. In the backstroke, I will be competing mainly against swimmers that are my age, so that should be a good race.”
Wiggs believes that the some of Sanchez’s success can be traced to the swimmers around him.
“Training with the other good swimmers that we have on our team like Tony Arroyo, Christopher Lopez and Gabriel Gonzalez is what has catapulted him into being what he is,” Wiggs said.
As the son of Mexican emigrants, Sanchez appreciates the opportunity that he has been given here in the United States.
“In Mexico, they don’t have all the things that we have here,” Sanchez said. “We have better facilities, better coaching and learn better techniques. It’s a great opportunity to swim over here.” And it is one opportunity that Sanchez intends to use to his full advantage.