RIPON – Even out of season, Hannah Sweet keeps a constant presence at the Ervin Zador Aquatic Center.
She has good reason.
The Ripon sophomore isn’t about to let swimming – and the future she’s constructed around the sport – pass her by.
“If you want to get to where you want to go,” Sweet said, speaking candidly about her goals, “you have to put in the hours.”
You see, Sweet has high hopes for the future. She wants to swim collegiately and on an athletic scholarship, for that matter, all of which means she’ll have to be even faster than she is now.
By all accounts, she’s among the fastest underclassmen in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Sweet finished her spring with a flurry, extending her season to the very last day – the section finals at Tokay High School. There she finished with two top-four times at the frosh-soph championships, earning the Bulletin’s All-Area Girls Swimmer of the Year.
She stepped onto the proverbial podium in the 100-yard breaststroke with a third-place finish, and then posted the fourth-fastest time of the day in the 200 freestyle.
“I’m proud of what I did. I know I worked hard and did the very best I could,” Sweet said. “I’m proud of my season.”
Sweet belongs among that sorority of All-Area MVPs. She is a three-time Valley Oak League champion, two-time section competitor and among the hardest working swimmers in the area.
For her head coach, Erik Zador, that was her separation from a pool of other candidates.
“She was very devoted. She came to every single practice and worked hard at every single practice,” Zador said. “On days she wasn’t feeling well, she would still come and work hard. She had points where she struggled and it got to her. But I told her to be patient. If she was, the rewards would come.”
Sweet is the second straight Indian to win the Bulletin’s top award, joining Erika Brown, who is now home-schooled and swims for renowned club Pleasanton Seahawks.
Brown took the high school swim season by storm last season, leading Ripon to a share of the VOL team title. At sections, Brown captured the imagination of many with a pair of record-setting performances at the frosh-soph level.
Without Brown, Zador asked her relay mates – Sweet, Emma Lewis and Maddie Hawes – to take the reins. Sweet embraced the challenge.
“Losing Erika allowed a few more swimmers to step up and fill that void,” Zador said. “She embraced it. She’s the quiet type, so she leads by example. With her being a sophomore, come her junior and senior seasons, you’ll see her overall leadership skills come out more.”
The triumvirate of Sweet, Lewis and Hawes kept the Indians in title contention for much of the season. Though Ripon eventually finished second to Kimball, the build-up and hunt positioned Sweet for her individual postseason.
Sweet was a double winner at the VOL Championships, securing titles and section-qualifying times in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
At Tokay High, Sweet proved she belonged among the section’s upper crust of freshmen and sophomores. She placed third in the breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 9.63 seconds.
In the 200 free, Sweet overcame a nervous performance in qualifying to win the consolation race – effectively finishing ninth overall. However, her time of 1:57.63 was the fourth-fastest of the afternoon.
“The pressure got to her a bit, but she figured a way to pull it out. That was huge for her,” Zador said.
Both times were personal bests, and a testament to Sweet’s will.
“The first day, being there, I was nervous. I wasn’t mentally prepared yet,” she said. “I just said to myself, ‘You swam this yesterday. You know what it’s going to be like. Now come back and swim as hard as you can.’ I got the nervousness out.”
With one hurdle cleared comes another. Sweet hasn’t taken any time off after the high school season. She says she spends an average of five-to-six hours at the aquatic center a day, practicing swimming and water polo.
“She’s a dedicated athlete,” Zador said. “She’s inspiring to the group, to the other swimmers, because she’s here every day.”
She sees no other way – not with where she wants to go.
“You have to be self-motivated. (Zador) requires you to come to practice, but it’s how hard you want to push yourself,” she said. “I know I want to be successful, so I push myself as hard as I can.”