The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Kawei Tan etched the last of his legacy with the College of San Mateo men’s swimming team over the weekend at the California Community College Swimming and Diving State Championship Meet at the East Los Angeles College Swim Stadium.
Last season as a freshman, Tan earned three medals at the state championship, including first place in the 100-yard backstroke. This year, he upped the ante, medaling in five events to bring his career total to eight.
Although his time in the 100 back was over two seconds slower from last season’s first-place finish, he still captured third place in the event with a time of 52.15 seconds. Yet, Tan’s reaction was one of disappointment after topping the podium a year ago with a time of 49.86.
“I was completely speechless,” Tan said. “I had nothing to say. I don’t what happened.”
It was Diablo Valley College’s Brandon James who stole the show in the event. He took first place i with a 48.32. But it was performance in the 100 back during the opening leg of the 400 medley relay that made history, as James set the state meet record with a 47.90.
Tan, who doesn’t swim in the 400 medley relay, got to watch the record-breaking performance. Tan said it was clear James was in the midst of a special swim.
“I knew I was going to watch something spectacular and I did,” Tan said. “I just wish it were me.”
But James’ performance in the 200 back was even more prolific, as he topped the field with a new national junior college record of 1:44.95. Tan competed in that event — it was actually the final competitive event of his CSM career — taking eighth with a 1:54.86.
On Day One of the state championships last Thursday, Tan started with a bang by placing third in the 50 free with a 21.04.
“I think I was pretty proud of that one,” Tan said. “That was my favorite race of the weekend. … I just put my head down and didn’t take a breath.”
Later in the day, Tan competed in his first of two relays throughout the meet. The team of Tan, Javier Rosas, Josh Yeager and Jake Folan placed sixth in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:25.84.
“We are very pleased with that actually, that is not our event,” Tan said. “We’re a bunch of medley swimmer.”
Come the 200 medley relay on Day Two last Friday, the same quartet took fifth place with a 1:34.59. Tan said the team expected to finish in the top three, as it is their specialty event.
“I kind of take responsibility for that,” Tan said. “I actually swam quite poorly. The rest of the guys actually had to pick up the race for me.”
For Tan, swimming in five events is nothing new. He competes in as many at a standard meet during the regular season. Still, the workload of 10 overall races — including five prelims and five finals — is a big one.
“It’s actually kind of exhausting,” Tan said. “But you’ve got to remember everybody else is doing that too; so is my competition. So it’s not really an excuse for me.”
Tan said, overall, his sophomore season for CSM was his worst since he was a high school sophomore at Burlingame. It was at Burlingame he refined his technique under then Panthers head coach Chris Culp.
Even before his time at Burlingame, Tan was a student of Culp’s at the Burlingame Aquatics Club. He started with the club when he was 10, and was immediately seen as an exceptional talent, according to BAC coach Tom Lo.
“I always knew that he had a tremendous feel for the water even when he was a youngster,” Lo said. “Things were natural for him in the water.”
Tan is set to transfer to UC San Diego next season where he is expected to continue his collegiate legacy at the Division-I level. He expects to be in the water with the school’s club team before official practices get underway in September.
“I’m looking to start swimming with them in the summer and getting back into the groove,” Tan said.
In other CSM men’s results, Rosas tabbed two eighth-place finishes. In the 200 free he finished with a time of 1:44.71; and in the 100 free he finished with a 46.68. Yeager took ninth place in the 200 back with a 1:54.80; 10th place in the 200 fly with a 1:54.80; and 14th in the 100 fly with a 51.84.
The CSM women’s team saw freshman Morgan Smith medal in three events. She took fourth place in the 200 fly with a 2:12.97; fifth place in the 100 fly with a 58.58; and seventh place in the 50 free with a 24.75. Haley Leong took 16th in the 400 IM with a 5:10.11.
“Overall I think we did alright,” Tan said. “Most of us final-ed. Most of us medaled. But Brandon James is an incredible swimmer. One of the most incredible I’ve ever seen in my life.”