If you sought Central Casting in need of a swimmer, you would find Downey High graduate Tim Richard.
He stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 198 pounds, an imposing presence as he dives into the pool.
Richard parlayed that impressive frame, and more than a little work, into an impressive senior year — All-Modesto Metro Conference in water polo, honorable mention in basketball and a major finishing kick in swimming this spring.
The Sac-Joaquin Section Swimming Championships at Tokay High brought Richard's career to a ringing end. He placed fourth in both the 100 free and 100 breaststroke, though he hoped for higher finishes. Then again, he missed swim season as a junior due to academic ineligibility.
Call it a lesson learned. One year later, Richard is The Bee's Stanislaus District Boys Swimmer of the Year.
Richard, the MMC champion in both the free and the breaststroke, found himself churning in the wake of winner Trevor Allen of Davis-Yolo in both section finals. His 46.48 in the free and 58.17 in the breaststroke were good but not good enough for a medal.
"I did pretty good but I could've done better," he said. "I wasn't prepared for that intense of a race."
Richard's performance leads to a lot of easy second-guesses: What could he have done if he had competed as a junior? How badly did he miss that season?
"I know I would have had a chance to win, or at least I would have been a lot closer," Richard admitted.
Downey coach Tim Vesey said his star pupil could have shaved a few fractions of a second had he passed on basketball as a senior. But that was Richard's decision, a difficult call. The eternal question has grown even more complex in these days of year-round specialization: Do I go for the full experience or do I focus on one sport?
"His getting back on track (academically) and getting excited about school again was big," Vesey said. "The only guy who's making a living as a swimmer is Michael Phelps."
Richard thanked his family and his friends for reversing his path in the classroom. For evidence, he finished at Downey with a 3.4 GPA.
"It made me want to push myself this year," he said. "I was sad and angry and resented myself. I had to try harder to see what I could do."
He's finding out on all fronts about his potential. He made the most of his senior year, during which he mentored many of his teammates on a young Downey team.
Richard will attend Modesto Junior College, where he'll compare times with another Downey product, Bryan Haile, who became MJC's first state champion swimmer in 19 years in 2004. Richard broke all Haile's breaststroke records at Downey.
"I think Tim is at least as talented as Bryan," Vesey said. "I compare Tim in ability to Karlee (Bispo, now a sophomore at Texas). The only difference is that Karlee worked a little harder. Tim is just beginning to realize that he's good."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.