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Ripons Brubaker takes aim at state berth in 500 free
Ripon junior Mallory Brubaker sets the pace in the 200-yard freestyle during a Valley Oak League double dual meet against Kimball and Sierra at Ervin Zador Aquatic Center. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Mallory Brubaker tried a different strategy on her final race of the season.

Normally a strong finisher, Ripon coach Erik Zador instructed her to start faster and hold the pace in the 500-yard freestyle final during the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships.

“I was really tired during the race,” Brubaker said.

It nearly got her to the state meet. 

She wound up a mere half second short of accomplishing her goal. Brubaker did, however, place sixth in the finals with a new school and personal record time of 5 minutes, 5.54 seconds, earning Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Swimmer of the Year honors.

“My time wasn’t as fast as I had hoped, but I was content with the PR,” Brubaker said. 

Only the top three placers earn automatic berths to the CIF State Championships. Additional swimmers can advance by meeting or surpassing the automatic standard — was set at 4:56.95 for the girls 500 free — and clocking a top-40 time among the state’s 10 section finals. Brubaker easily got under the “consideration” time (5:10.30), but Sunny Hills sophomore Maya Lee seized the final at-large berth at 5:04.97.

“I knew it was close and that I’d be right there,” Brubaker said. “It’s definitely heartbreaking and devastating to see I was that close to making it.”

Brubaker had another close call in the SJS Championships. She finished with the 17th fastest time in the 200 free finals at 1:58.72 — one spot shy of qualifying for the consolation finals. The Ripon junior qualified for the second day in both events at the frosh-soph level the past two years, so it was a different experience getting to only concentrate on one.

“I was just not on top of my game that day,” she said. “I’ve always qualified for both events, so it was a little weird. My goal is to get back to the second day in the 200 and drop time in that race.”

Brubaker was area’s the lone varsity girls competitor to make an individual final. Despite her disappointing finish, she had plenty to celebrate over the course of the season.

She placed first in the Valley Oak League Championships 500 free, second in the 200 free and was part of the winning 200 free relay. Best of all, Brubaker helped the Indians claim their third straight VOL team title and fourth in five years.

Ripon is prime to continue its dynasty run in the VOL. The Indians will miss graduated standouts Kyra Foley and Andria Martin, who were joined by juniors Elizabeth Wenner and Chloe Winter on the section’s eighth-place final-heat finisher in the 200 medley relay. 

“It’s awesome to be part of such a great team that is super close,” Brubaker said. “Practicing with each other day in and day out, we went from a team to a family, and when we get to accomplish things together it feels great.”

Brubaker, who carries a 4.3 grade point average into her senior year, is currently competing for Ripon Aquatics in the long course season. She’ll switch gears to water polo when school starts back up in the fall. Her long-term goal is to compete collegiately for Cal Baptist but is keeping her options open.