One is a senior who is a veteran of six years of meets. The other is a sophomore who is just in her second season of competition.
But EJ Vazquez and Leslie Esquivel are helping lead Fort Stockton's swim team to top finishes in meets.
For Vazquez, his high school swim career is coming down to the 5A-District 4 championship meet Jan. 17-18. A strong finish in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, as well as the team relays, will propel him to the Region 1 championship meet and, hopefully, a spot in the state championships.
Esquivel hopes to go far this season, too – she already has three diving wins this season and knows the better she competes as a sophomore this year, the stronger she will be as a junior next season.
Since 7th Grade
“My 7th-grade year, they announced over the intercom that there's a swim team forming,” Vazquez said. “I thought 'that sounds awesome!' Of course, when I joined, I didn't look like I knew how to swim. I grew – I got a tiny bit better.”
Indeed. At last weekend's 22-team Andrews Invitational, he finished third in both and 50 and 100 freestyle. He now holds the school records of 23.11 in the 50 and the 51.15 in the 100. He hopes to get into the 22-second range in the 50 and in the 49-second range in the 100.
“I've always been inclined to be in the water,” he said. “The swim team has been natural for me … in my 8th-grade year, I just fell in love with the sport.”
Vazquez said he has improved mentally and physically each year.
“Especially with my strength and technique,” he said. “That's due to the coaches I've had over the years and the support of my parents. You've got to work so hard for this sport.”
He has attended the two-week Texas A&M swim camp the past four years, as well training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
Vazquez hopes to continue competitive swimming in college. Academically, he is looking at biology or physical therapy.
For Esquivel, her experience with a diving board was limited to plunges at the Comanche Springs Pool and seeing her brother, Fernando, on the school's dive team.
It's a big jump from being familiar with diving recreationally or as a spectator to doing it competitively. Not the least of which is overcoming fear of hitting the water wrong or the risk of making contact with the board, Esquivel said.
“Absolutely – that's why I had a T-shirt just a minute ago (while practicing dives),” she said. “It's always a mind-over-matter type situation. If you do end up bumping, it's going to hurt for a little bit.”
High school divers compete off a board 1-meter (about 40 inches) above the water. Five dives are performed and each are scored on a scale of 1 to 10 by judges: forward, backward, reverse, inward, and twist. A strong vertical burst off the board is essential.
Esquivel said the biggest improvement between her freshman season and this year has been her confidence. She has three meet wins this season after not having a win as a freshman – something she said she has been surprised by.
She also competes in cross country and track. She sees similarities in the three sports, especially when it comes to being part of a team, but really competing as an individual isolated in a moment.
“Before a dive or stepping on to the line, you have to concentrate and tell yourself 'you're going to be fine and do what you've got to do' and 'It's just another race, it's just another dive.'”