Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Swimming ahead, fighting and leading

The common belief is that great athletes have trained their entire lives for their sport and what makes them great is the time they’ve committed to training over the years. Famed soccer player David Beckham and swimmer Michael Phelps started playing their sport in their early childhood. But what exactly makes a great athlete?

Beckham told people he’d be a professional soccer player as early as grade school, but for Phelps swimming started only as an outlet for his energy. For Fullerton College swim captains Joe Babbitt and Gabbi Garcia, dedication is what brought them to the blocks at state championships and neither of them jumped into a pool competitively until high school.

For Babbitt, swim was something he stumbled upon out of necessity. After blowing out his knee in football and cross-country, he decided to jump in the pool for the low-impact appeal as running was a consistent nuisance from his injury.

Men's swim captain Joe Babbit, looks across the pool deck as he prepares himself for his race. Photo credit: Stephanie Gorman

“My older brother did swimming and water polo,” Babbitt said. “And when I went to water sports I fell in love with it.”

Babbitt added his injury hasn’t proven to be much of an issue in the pool.

For Garcia, aquatics was her first competitive sport altogether.

Garcia’s mom, Lisa Garcia, said her daughter took swim lessons when she was a kid, but swimming was always for playtime. Garcia and her sisters loved the water but loved Barbies just a little bit more; so swim was always for play, not for sport.

Women's swim captain Gabbi Garcia prepares for her race after warming up. Photo credit: Stephanie Gorman

“I loved the water, so my mom said, ‘Why don’t you just do swim and water polo?’” Gabbi said. “My best friends were doing it too, so why not just be together! And then I liked it, a lot.”

Despite the late start, Babbitt and Garcia both started naturally skilled in the water, performing just above average with no training. Nonetheless their competitive drive kept them improving.

“I really, really like to compete and I hate losing,” Babbitt said. “The only reason I keep improving is because I hate to lose.”

Babbitt trained hard on his team at Canyon High School, but said he didn’t start to really focus on swim until his junior year. To continue improving, he joined a club swim team after high school and started weight lifting outside of his swim workouts. Many students couldn’t imagine such a regimen with their course load. Babbitt said he finds the time, sometimes sacrificing sleep for homework and studying. A familiar endurance every student can relate to, athlete or not.

Garcia has been equally as hard on herself despite never joining a club team. She said she does most of her homework while she’s at school or over the weekend. After she’s out of the pool, she has dinner and gets back on the grind with a second land based workout before calling it a night.

“I don’t know what pushed me, I just loved being in the water and I loved the feeling of accomplishment,” Gabbi said. “I was so dedicated in what I wanted to do, it was weird. I ended up being the one convincing my friends to stay in it.”

Their competitive drive and dedication has benefited not only themselves throughout their competitive swimming, but also their teammates. The dynamic between these two captains has impacted swimmers in a way that drives them only to be better.

Several teammates were in the stands this weekend at East Los Angeles College for the California Community College Athletic Association Swim & Dive State Championships supporting not only their captains, but also Kyle Graves, who competed in the 200-yard breaststroke. Energy was high and competitive drive was even higher as Babbitt and Garcia prepared for their race in the 100-yard freestyle.

After finishing prelims, teammate and first-time swimmer Tony Nguyen described them as no less than inspirational.

“I look up to both of them,” said teammate Erika McFeggan. “Gabbi is younger than me and I even look up to her…and I’ve only known Joe for like four months and I’m already starting to look up to him like an older brother. They’re both so inspirational, it’s amazing being on a team with them.”

Babbitt and Garcia credit a lot of their success to their parents despite having their own unparalleled dedication. Both of their parents attend as many of their events as they can and Garcia said that if it weren’t for her parents, she might not have pushed herself as hard.

“My parents really helped me learn that I can achieve anything,” Garcia said. “Even if I’m not in a club or if I haven’t been training my entire life to be good at a sport, I can just go out there and try my best and see what happens.”

Babbitt said his parents have been the ones supporting and encouraging him to do whatever it takes to get better, including his decision to add another element to the balancing act of being a student-athlete in joining a club team.

Babbitt and Garcia both closed their swim seasons in the consolation finals at state championships and proved themselves worthy of the top 16 in the state. Babbitt placed fifth in his heat and 13th overall swimming a 46.75, and Garcia placed second in her heat and 10th overall swimming a 54.88. Fullerton College swim captains proved themselves winners of the never-ending game of training catch-up.

“I’ve just used what I’ve learned to help me get where I am right now,” Garcia said. “Which is unbelievable. To be going to state, the only girl, it’s so hard to believe.”

This year is Garcia’s first year in college and she’s looking forward to an opportunity to transfer with a scholarship for either swim or water polo, perhaps both.

Babbitt will wave farewell to FC this semester and has labeled Cal State, Long Beach as his transfer school, but only if his wait list position for UC San Diego doesn’t change to an acceptance.

“I’m going to miss the team, and I’m going to miss the school in general,” Babbitt said. “In the pool and out of the pool, I’ve learned a lot, but I’m ready to take the next step.”

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