By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The desire to compete was at low ebb for All-Empire swimmer Evan Vizcarra.
Despite coming off another strong season at Petaluma High, the Trojans’ record holder wondered if he would race again.
“I was almost burned out. I had no idea where I was going to college. But I decided to give it another shot,” he said.
Good thing he stayed in the water. Vizcarra helped lead Cal State Bakersfield men’s team to a conference title, earning freshman of the year honors in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Such success at the NCAA Division I level came as little surprise to Bakersfield coach Chris Hansen.
“Evan’s biggest strength is his attitude. In my 21 years of coaching, he has by far been one of the most motivated and hardest workers I have ever coached,” Hansen said. “He wants to be good.”
Vizcarra’s power in the pool was evident his freshman year at Petaluma, breaking out as one of the region’s top distance freestyle swimmers.
Earning All-Empire honors as a sophomore and junior, Vizcarra then was slowed by a right shoulder strain. Swimming shorter distances in the free and backstroke as a senior, he still was among the region’s best.
Bakersfield offered Vizcarra a chance to keep swimming. Hansen in his first year leading the Roadrunners coached Vizcarra’s older brother Nathan. Evan and their parents attended many meets.
“I had seen him swim and I knew there was talented swimmer in there somewhere,” Hansen said.
After another summer of training at Westside swim club in Petaluma, he faced the rigorous level of college conditioning when practices started in September. Swimming six days a week, the athletes also are in the weight room three days in addition to running workouts.
“Everybody on the team wants to win. I ended up dropping a lot of times in all my events,” he said.
His role on the Bakersfield team was set one day in practice. Given a set of freestyles, Vizcarra was the best at long distances.
“I took off. From that point on he said you’re going to be in the distance group,” Vizcarra said.
At season’s end, he had the teams’ best times for the 500 free and 1,000 free and the third leading mark in the 200 butterfly.
“College training is a lot different. We have strength coaches and dry land coaches. Evan got much stronger,” Hansen said. “Evan can be getting his butt kicked in one of the hardest distance sets I can give and he will be smiling and having fun.”
Racing against some of the nation’s fastest teams was motivation.
“It’s so competitive. You’re always getting pushed,” Vizcarra said.
Also pushing himself more in the classroom, Vizcarra carries a B average as a business major.
Over the next three years at Bakersfield, his goal in the pool is reaching the NCAA championships.
“I would not be surprised one bit,” Hansen said. “Evan and I will sit down in September when he returns and start planning out his season. I know U.S. Nationals, NCAA and Olympic Trial cuts are all on his mind.”
Far from burned out, Vizcarra is fired up.
“If I make NCAAs, bigger things come up after that,” he said.