LPC speedster takes the coveted state crown in the 100 free
Esteban Perez Del Rio does not shy away from challenging himself every time he dives into the water.
“One of my main goals is to break team records for the events that I swim in,” he said this past offseason as he prepared for his second year at Las Positas. On May 4, one of the ambitious goals Perez Del Rio set for himself became a reality as he clinched the first men’s state championship in program history.
Just two weeks after the Kimball High School graduate led the swim and dive teams to their fifth consecutive Coast Conference championship, it was time to lock in for one last outing as a member of the Hawks.
It was the time for Perez Del Rio to reap the benefits of all the hard work that he has put in over the last two years — and he delivered.
Perez Del Rio shook off the early disappointments of coming fifth in the 50 and 200 free races, and looked at the top of his game as he swam to a dominant victory in the 100 free — the race that he has been training for throughout his entire collegiate career.
“It is a surreal feeling to me,” Perez Del Rio said when speaking of how he felt about becoming a state champion. “It is still really hard to believe. It’s hard enough to make it to state, but to win an event brings me a lot of pride. And not only to myself, but to my team, and everyone who has been with me during this journey.”
When it mattered most, Perez Del Rio recorded a school record time of 45.09 to claim the lone gold medal of the event for the Hawks — and only the second in the nine-year history of the program (2013, McKenna Stevulak).
Head coach Jason Craighead looked back with pride on the progress that Perez Del Rio made in his time at Las Positas, and credited his swimmer’s success entirely to the sophomore’s hard work and dedication to his craft.
“He was not exceptionally fast when he came here as a freshman, but after he swam pretty well during his first year, we set some pretty high goals and standards for ourselves in terms of what we wanted to try and achieve,” Craighead said.
“We were really focusing on that 100 freestyle, and he put in a lot of effort, energy, and commitment to stick to the plan and do everything he needed in order to be successful, and it really paid off.
“He’s a great kid, a hard worker. He was willing to put in the time and effort, and he surpassed those goals, which is fantastic.”
The last few weeks were testing for Perez Del Rio. He was put in a lot of high pressure-high expectation situations in relatively quick succession; but it is something that all standout athletes have to go through at some point in their careers — and that was his time.
It is a process that is earned through the level of expectations that the athletes set for themselves with their performances.
For Perez Del Rio, the time of adversity hit during both, the conference and the state championship meets. As a captain and leader of the Hawks, the freestyle specialist had to learn how to deal with those emotions on the fly in order to be able to come good for himself and the team at the most high-profile events.
Perez Del Rio explained that the anxiety and the pressure, which first paid him a visit during the conference meet, returned during the state championships, particularly before the 100 free.
“I definitely felt a lot of pressure and some of that anxiety as the event came closer,” Perez Del Rio said. “I was seeded pretty high in all of my events, so I felt like the team and the coaches had high expectations for me. To deal with it, I just tried not to think about the race too much and just focus on my breathing and trying to relax, and it paid off.”
Having just experienced a similar feeling two weeks prior when he managed to secure three individual conference championships, and lead the Hawks to the championship — Perez Del Rio was better equipped this time around.
And with the level of competition and the stakes significantly higher, Perez Del Rio retained his composure, and walked out of the De Anza College Pools with gold hanging around his neck — and ready for more.
“My performances at the conference meet already left me excited to see what’s in store for me next,” Perez Del Rio said. “Now, I feel that all the work I put in finally paid off, and it leaves me wanting more.”
Perez Del Rio’s consistency throughout the campaign and the high level of performances during the seasons most defining moments have now opened up the doors for the sophomore to do just that.
The golden season finale has left the Tracy-raised swimmer with plenty of opportunities to choose from as he plots the next step in his career.
Perez Del Rio holds a dual citizenship as he was born in Puerto Rico. As a result of that, his standout season may grant him a chance to represent his home country in the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo.
In addition, the Hawks men’s captain has been recruited by two NCAA division one schools in University of Las Vegas and UC Santa Barbara.
And so even though his time as a Las Positas Hawk is coming to an end — chances are this is not the last time you will hear of Esteban Perez Del Rio.