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By Devin Bradshaw


The Hawks diligent pursuit of a championship is in full swing. Leading the way for the men: sophomore Ryan Eckles.

He’s the Hawks’ burner in the water and is undefeated in 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter freestyle. He is ranked 6th in the state in the free and 13th in the 100.

At the Coast Conference Kickoff meet, back on Feb. 16 at West Valley College, Eckles and the Hawks cruised to the win. They outscored second-place West Valley by more than 100 points and Chabot by better than 400 points.

(Note: The women were equally dominant, finishing first as well — comfortably over City College of San Francisco by more than 200 points.)

But in his second season with the program, Eckles has doing more than just lowering his times. He’s raising his responsibilities.

This season, he’s become a leader in the water and out of it. He has assumed the responsibility of being an inspiration to his teammates.

“Setting an example helps me to push myself each meet,” he said.

Don’t get it twisted. Eckles has designs on improving himself in the pool. All of this is preparation for the conference and state championships.

Getting a taste of what the state championship was like last year, leading the Hawks to a fourth-place finish, Eckles is confident this season will be different. He is hoping to make the podium this year — top 3.

To do that, he said he needs to hit more weights, spend more time preparing mentally, and focusing on recovery.

“We’re going to give him a little bit of extra rest,” coach Jason Craighead said. “We’re working pretty hard right now. Generally, we train right through the meets. Our meets are an opportunity to get more training and more reps, so we swim pretty tired through most of our meets. But we want him fresh. He’s a big, strong guy. We want him to get some rest, rest his muscles and go fast.”

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