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Campus visit seals the deal for James Sanchez who will swim for the Redhawks in 2020-21

There was a time not long ago when James Sanchez was unsure if his swimming career would continue beyond high school.

It’s an affliction not uncommon for year-round swimmers who endure thousands of yards a day for miniscule drops in time.

Sanchez, a Central Kitsap senior and school record-holder in the 100 butterfly, was feeling the strain but also the pressure of picking a college and wasn’t fully convinced he wanted to be a student-athlete. Then the shutdown reaction due to the coronavirus happened.

James Sanchez of Central Kitsap claps his hands at the start of the 200-yard individual medley at the Swimvitational on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Olympic Aquatic Center in Bremerton. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
James Sanchez of Central Kitsap claps his hands at the start of the 200-yard individual medley at the Swimvitational on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Olympic Aquatic Center in Bremerton. Sanchez will swim next season at D1 Seattle University.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

“I was restricted to home; zero swimming,” Sanchez said. “That’s when I realized that swimming is a huge part of who I am and what I’m made of. I never thought that I would miss swimming so much!”

Sanchez, who placed fourth in the butterfly at the 3A state championships in February and eighth in the backstroke, narrowed his choice down to one and will swim next season for the Division I Seattle University Redhawks. Sanchez said choosing Seattle allowed him to focus on swimming and his academics as they don’t offer athletic scholarships. He received academic scholarships and grants.

Central Kitsap swim coach Whitney Dodd has known Sanchez since he was eight when he began club swimming and has enjoyed watching his development as a swimmer and person.

“He was a natural and I used to say if any of my kids ever made a career of swimming it would be James,” she said. “Fast forward to 2016 and getting to coach him in high school was an honor. To be there at the beginning of his love for the sport and then be there to watch him break a school record, and then break it again, it was incredible.”

James Sanchez of Central Kitsap swims the butterfly leg in the 200 individual medley at the Swimvitational Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, at Olympic Aquatic Center in Bremerton.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

The whole process of recruitment and putting himself out there was a challenge for Sanchez. 

“At the time, I thought only those colleges that are popular are the only ones that can offer the best education,” he said. “When I had to decide on which college I should attend, I began to truly realize the importance of a college that actually fits my personality, as well as where I would truly feel I belong.”

Sanchez’s other choices included US Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Merchant Marine, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, University of the Pacific, Grand Canyon University, George Fox University, Whitworth and Pacific Lutheran University. Those offers came when he was still unsure about continuing to swim so he eliminated the schools that included a military commitment as it seemed “less enticing and less ‘me,’” he said.

Seattle University was the last campus that Sanchez visited and it was the only university that caught his full attention by how the students presented themselves. 

“I felt that they were real and they mean what they say. They don’t seem to just say the things that I want to hear,” he said. “I felt that they truly believe and trust their institution.”

Sanchez intends to major in mechanical engineering and he appreciates the smaller class sizes. 

“I imagine myself in a class where my presence is strongly felt and my voice is clearly heard by tenured professors utilizing holistic approach in teaching,” he said. “I feel that it is there that I would feel challenged to critically think and recognize my own passion while I unfold my mere purpose in life.”

Sanchez was able to visit all the campuses, including the military academies on the east coast, but the idea of not having to sign a letter of intent to swim takes much of the pressure to succeed off his shoulders.

“Swimming for me has always been, and will always be, a passion,” he said. “My priority is to focus on my academics and intended major.”

James Sanchez of Central Kitsap swims the backstroke leg in the 200 individual medley at the Swimvitational Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, at Olympic Aquatic Center in Bremerton.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Sanchez is eager to get back in the water as soon as pools open — he’s been doing full dryland-style workouts — and has been in contact with Seattle coach Craig Nisgor. Sanchez said they’re expected to start training by late August and work on getting his endurance back up to his usual 5,000 to 7,500 yards a day.

It’s a goal that Dodd knows Sanchez can accomplish.

“When I heard he was going to swim at Seattle U, I couldn’t wait to tell my family, my assistant coach and anyone else who would listen,” Dodd said. “Saying I’m proud of him doesn’t seem like it’s enough. He’s going to do great things. I hope I can go watch one of his meets someday.”

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