Ian Yepez is overcoming the odds
WHITTIER – Whittier High School 2020 graduate and swimmer, Ian Yepez, who is headed to Rio Hondo College, is a driven swimmer once he hits the water.
Yepez, 18, wants to win every race he enters, as most swimmers do.
However, he swims and adjusts to life with a disorder that he was diagnosed with at the age of four.
It was discovered that he had Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal infection (Pandas), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Part of the disorder is the flareups, which cause him to not take direction.
Once he hits the water for those few seconds, there is no disorder, as he races to the wall.
“With ADHD, it helps me with my racing, because I have all of this energy built up in me,” Yepez said. “It helps me in the pool when I race against my opponent and helps me get energized and get ready for my race. It’s kind of a benefit for me.
“The one thing I always have to remember is I need to practice, I need to get better and I need to focus on what I need to do so I can get faster, so I can be better in the water.”
Yepez began swimming at theat he the age of four and even played water polo, but did not focus on certain aspects of the game.
That’s when Ian asked his mom, Evette Yepez, if he could join the swim team. At that time he was competing at the Commerce Aquatic Club, along with his brother Elyas, who was also in swimming.
They eventually switched over to Whittier Aquatics, which was closer to home, where he flourished.
That is evidenced with the wall full of ribbons and awards he has attained through the years.
A good amount of those awards came with the Whittier club.
While at the Whittier club, Yepez won his fair share of races under coach Todd Jacobson.
Yepez entered high school in 2017 and in the Del Rio League finals in the Spring of 2018, he finished second to a swimmer from El Rancho in the 100yard Freestyle.
. Yepez then filed that race away until the next year.
He finished third in the 50. He also swam in the 200 Individual Relay and 400 Free Relay.
“Whoever wants it more, wins more,” Yepez said. “When I started winning in my freshman year, I was terrified of who was going to be the fastest.
“I was excited and terrified at the same time.”
Yepez improved greatly in the summer between his freshman and sophomore year.
“Over the summer I swam the long course and was training and getting stronger and improving,” he said. “I was breaking my freshman times by a second.”
This was so true for Yepez as he entered his sophomore season.
At the DRL finals in his sophomore year, he won the 50 with a time of 22.60.
“That meet I really had competitors. It was a head to head race and I attacked him (El Rancho swimmer) by .04.”
Yepez easily won the 100 Free with a 49.16 time.
In his junior year, besides the 50 and 100, Yepez competed in the 200 IM Relay and the 200 Relay.
Another big reason why Yepez improved in his sophomore year was the return of longtime swimming coach Chris Schneider.
“When I met him, this is the coach I really needed and wanted.
“He would teach us how to stretch and was a cool coach too. When I won, he’d be happy.”
Schneider, who also was the girls water polo coach at the school and won CIF Championships in 2005 and ‘07, knows how dedicated Yepez is in the sport.
“He is very competitive and when he hits that water, it’s game on,” Schneider said. “His condition didn’t seem to affect him.
“He was amazing, passionate and loves the competition.”
Schneider is a P.E. teacher at the school, who started for the Cardinals in 1997.
Schneider, after a few years off from coaching water polo while he and his wife, Cassandra, were raising their three young kids, will return as both boys and girls water polo coach when sports start back up in the Spring. Cassandra, who also has a teaching credential, is at home during the pandemic helping their three kids with their lessons.
His mom, Evette, knows that swimming has been a real help for him.
“Because of his challenges, that’s who you are and he was still able to be successful,” Evette said. “Swimming has helped him get through it.
“He just gets focused. It’s a perfect sport for his condition. It takes a lot of dedication.
“He is acknowledging his disorder and is getting better as he gets older.”
All three of the Yepez children are swimmers, which also includes his sister, Elena.
As a junior, Yepez again swept both the 50 and 100 Freestyle races and qualified for CIF. He was just .80 off of the school record in the 50 Free as he posted a time of 22.60 in the DRL finals. The school record was 21.80.
In CIF-Southern Section D3 competition, Yepez finished with a time of 22.73 in the 50 Free.
In the 100, Yepez swam a 48.92, just .92 off of the school record and finished 15th in CIF.
“He was so close to the school record,” said Schneider, who went to Pioneer and moved on to Rio Hondo and Whittier College. He swam and played water polo at all three levels.
“He came back in the B final and anytime you get to come back the next day, it’s pretty special,” said Schneider of Yepez’ 2019 CIF swim.
However, his final year was aiming to be his best as he was aiming from early Fall to break the school record in the 100.
The mark had stood for 33 years, as Marco Tarvainen set it in 1987.
“I know he was talking about it (100 record) all year,” Schneider said.
The pandemic, however, took all of that away from Yepez,
“I was ready to break the record in the 100 (Freestyle),” Yepez remembered. “I had the confidence.”
Schneider knew that this year he had a real chance to break that long-standing record.
“He needed to have his best as a high swimmer,” Schneider added.
The pandemic, like everyone in sports, is hard.
“That was tough, because it was abrupt,” Schneider said. “He and the other kids were sad.”
On the pandemic, Yepez was still hopeful for a season when it hit in March.
“I thought it was going to get better and we’re still going to get to continue swimming,” he said. “I really wanted to break the record and go to state.”
Yepez even played in the band (tenor drums) in high school and when he went into the band room, “……I used to be in the marching band and everyone was crying.”
He reflected on his high school years – “It was super fun and I enjoyed it. I met new friends and made CIF the last two years.
Yepez hadn’t been in the pool since March and had the opportunity when he had a photo session this week.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the water,” he said. “I’m really excited to get back in the pool at college, to get that feeling again.
“It’s a different world (in college) with fast swimmers.”
After his two years at Rio Hondo, Yepez hopes to continue his education and study mechanical engineering.
For his efforts, Yepez received the Cardinal Spirit award, a top athletic honor at the school.
“He was so excited to receive the award,” Evette Yepez said.
Ian Yepez has conquered everything that has been thrown at him in his young life.
He will be just fine, especially with that big smile of his!
One Cardinal swimmer, who also missed out on the 2020 season was Kaili Reyes. She competed in the 200 IM and 100 Backstroke. “She had some big goals this last season,” Schneider added.
Coach Schneider’s 2021 swimming team is getting excited for the upcoming season. “They kind of want to get going,” Schneider said.
Schneider recently had his first class on zoom with the aquatic kids and said, “They kind of want to get started and kept asking, ‘when’s practice.’ That’s part of the process of not knowing what’s ahead.”