Jarred Torres always thought of two things before jumping inside the pool.
One: Beating his opponent before taking his dive.
Two: Remembering the impact of a man who instilled faith in him before embarking on his four-year swim career at Lompoc High, a man also known for being a pillar to the Lompoc Valley swimming community but someone who is no longer with Torres.
He not only taught the senior Torres how to improve as a swimmer, but how to improve as a student at LHS.
“My grades weren’t the best,” Torres recalled in an interview with The Record. “He offered to tutor me. When he passed, it left a mark on me.”
Bronson, a longtime volunteer in the area swimming realm and longtime assistant coach of the Braves junior varsity water polo and swim teams, died in April of 2016 when Torres was a freshman. Bronson was 60.
"He was Mr. Aquatics," Braves head swimming coach Jeff Storie said in a 2016 interview with The Record. "He was a really active guy. He found his niche developing young swimmers and water polo players."
And that included the young swimmer named Torres, who went on to become an established student inside the classroom and a three-time CIF Southern Section Finals qualifier on the Lompoc campus.
Torres’ last high school swim was at Riverside Community College during the weekend of May 3, where he competed in the CIF Southern Section prelims and finals. This time, Torres got the elevation to Division 2 following years of qualifying in the D3 realm.
But Torres entered this year’s race taking part in a swim that he was once hesitant to dive into: The 500.
“I was always more of a sprinter than distance,” Torres said. “But with more work, distance races became my strength.”
The 500 is the longest individual swim. Torres was always more adroit in the shorter events: The 100-yard breast stroke and the 200-yard free. But he said the Brave coaches wanted to experiment with him doing the lengthier swim.
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He admits there were some early nerves.
“The whole time, I was always hesitant and shaky,” Torres said.
But Torres still approached something new with the same ritual: He would jump up and down a few times, beat his chest, take a deep breath and then think about beating the opponent next to him.
“Everything I think about then goes away,” Torres said.
Before the CIF meet, Torres accelerated to times of 4:58.70 in the 500 and 1:50.17 in the 200 free at the April 25 Channel League Finals in San Marcos.
It was the former that got Torres into the May section tournament, as his time under five minutes was a CIF qualifying mark according to Storie. Even Torres himself was stunned by how well he did in a race that he’s not used to in the pool.
“Going to CIF for the 500 was a huge surprise for me,” said Torres, who added it was only the fourth time he swam the 500.
Torres is now preparing to graduate from Lompoc High as one of the most decorated swimmers in Braves history. Even though Torres will no longer wear the Braves’ logo on his head gear before meets, he’s hoping his swimming career doesn’t come to an end.
He’ll aim to join the Santa Maria Swim Club following graduation. He adds that if Hancock College ever starts up a male swimming and diving team, he’ll jump to that opportunity.
But he’ll continue to carry the memory, and impact, of his former coach Bronson. Torres felt the best way to always honor Mr. Bronson was to strive for the best – inside the classroom and inside swimming venues.
“He was extremely optimistic and a great guy,” Torres said. “Everything I did, it was in his honor.”