It’s Monday afternoon and the Aptos High School swimming pool is filled with youngsters learning how to swim or practicing to get faster lap times.  

Aptos High alumnus Christopher Staka used to be one of those kids. But now, he’s working on something much, much bigger.  

Staka, one of the most decorated swimmers to come out of Aptos, is preparing for next year’s Olympic trials. 

“That’s pretty much what’s in my head,” Staka said. “I’m really excited to get to UT (University of Texas) but being an Olympic year, that’s really going to be the focus.”

Staka also signed a National Letter of Intent in March to compete for 14-time NCAA Division I champion University of Texas beginning in 2019-20.

The 21-year old aspiring Olympian said he’s thrilled to join the Longhorns but the mindset is purely focused on the Olympic Trials, which take place on June 23 in Omaha, Neb.

The University of Texas has been a perennial champion swimming team over the years. Under coach Eddie Reese, the Texas men’s team has won 40 consecutive conference championships on top of the 14 national titles.

Reese has served as head coach at three Olympics (1992, 2004 and ’08). At Texas, he has turned out 29 Olympians who have collected 39 gold medals, 16 silver and eight bronze.

Staka received a text message from Reese during a swimming meet in Seattle. He was offered a chance to join the team and jumped on the opportunity.

“I couldn’t be happier with the decision now,” Staka said. “I’ve been swimming lights-out all year and it’s been a lot of fun… I’m getting well prepared for Texas.”

Staka said it meant a lot to him for Reese to reach out to him first, especially being the team that they are. 

“That was pretty huge for me, a big step at least,” Staka said. “Just knowing that I am at that level and I do get that recognition from coaches like that.”

Staka said the team environment was important to him, along with the coaching staff. 

“When I met them I knew they were very serious about swimming and serious about getting better,” Staka said. 

Aptos High and Cabrillo College swim coach Jim Triplett said he’s excited to see Staka get coached by Reese, who’s been a longtime friend of his.

Staka graduated from Aptos High in 2016 and won the California Interscholastic Federation state title in the 100 backstroke that same year.

Staka was at the University of Alabama for two years before he decided to walk away and take a year long break from school. 

Staka said the program was great but it wasn’t the right environment for him. 

“I felt like for my career to move forward I needed to take a step back and come home to train with Jim (Triplett),” Staka said. “My career just means too much to me to take a risk and not make the best decision for me.” 

Christopher Staka signed a National Letter of Intent in March to compete for 14-time NCAA Division I champion University of Texas beginning in 2019-20. (Juan Reyes — Pajaronian)

Since his return, Staka has been training with his former coach. He shows up to the pool every day, including weekends. 

Triplett went with Staka on a trip to Singapore.

Staka won a bronze medal in the 50 back in 23.54 seconds at the 2018 FINA Swimming World Cup in November.

Staka, along with Michael Andrew and Blake Pieroni, were the only Americans competing against dozens of other swimmers from countries around the world.

“It was definitely the best experience I’ve ever had,” Staka said. 

Staka was placed in the same hotel with the rest of the swimmers and got a chance to eat meals with them. He met Olympians and world record holders.

Staka said he learned a lot about what some of the best swimmers are doing and how to improve during a meet. 

“Having that experience in itself has really helped me grow as a swimmer,” he said. “To have experience at that high level is really going to help me in the Olympic trials next year.”  

Triplett said Staka swam really well and the fans in Singapore were very exuberant with the way he performed. 

Triplett mentioned several fans waited for Staka in front of his bus for autographs and photos.

“Somebody wanted his shirt,” Triplett said.

Staka also won two events — 50 and 100 back — at the Santa Clara International Swim Meet in June.      

Triplett said Staka — who was an assistant coach at Aptos High last year — has turned into a role model for some of the swimmers.    

“He’s just got a natural feel for swimming and he’s very competitive,” Triplett said. 

But Triplett said that wasn’t always the case. 

Staka was on the Aptos Cabrillo Swim Team as a kid but Triplett said he never thought competitive swimming would be his first choice. 

It wasn’t until Triplett saw Staka race in a local championship meet where he lost but he was determined to get better.

“I said to myself, ‘God, this kid’s got some drive and talent,’” Triplett said. 

Staka joined the Mariners in 2012 and Triplett allowed him to compete in a handful of events so he could decide what he wanted to focus on. 

Staka began to shine during his sophomore year. He continued to dominate the pool all the way up to his senior year when he was ranked the No. 1 backstroke swimmer in the nation.

Staka continues to peruse his lifelong dream of competing in the Olympics and the reality of getting there is not out of reach.

Next up, Staka will compete in the 100 back at the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships at Stanford on Aug. 3.

Staka believes he has a good shot of winning a national title or at least making the finals, which will help raise his stock for next year’s Olympic trials.

“It’s all about the Olympic trials, it’s in my head 24/7,” Staka said. “It’s about making that team and doing as well as I can when it comes to the Olympic trials.” 


Editor’s Note: This article will be published in the July 19 edition of the Pajaronian.

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