Toward the end of his show-stopping rendition of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” for the talent portion of last spring’s Mr. Ponderosa contest, Andy Cunningham dove on his fellow students to crowd-surf.
It was familiar territory to the Bruin senior. An accomplished swimmer, Cunningham relies on a good dive to begin his races and buoyancy — similar to what classmates gave him — to master his chosen sport.
To prepare, Cunningham listened to the song 100 times and, backed by a three-piece band, practiced it another 30. The repetition to perfect the task at hand helped carry him to the Mr. Ponderosa title — paralleling the effort he’s drawn upon to develop into a top-notch swimmer.
Cunningham has made his mark in the pool. He’ll swim next season for Division I Seattle University, a decision he made after several recruting trips as a senior.
“My clear goal was to swim at the Division I level and I’m super excited to to a part of a rising and improving program,” said Cunningham who leaves next month. “I’m gonna strive to compete at a high level, top in the conference, NCAA’s and U.S.”
He began his swim career as a 7 year-old Sierra Shark but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
“Racing was foreign and at first I didn’t really like it … it was alright but I didn’t enjoy it until I was older,” said Cunningham who was disqualified from his first-ever race when he turned over during the backstroke.
As his competitive edge kicked in, something clicked.
“I realized I might have a future in the sport … plus I hated losing,” Cunningham said.
He moved on to the Sierra Marlins, a year-round program, at age 14. Cunningham characterized his first two years “an adjustment period” before he started breaking through as a junior to qualify for national meets. As a senior he qualified for the U.S. Nationals in both the 200-yard back and 400 Individual Medlay — only a fraction of his resumé.
Cunningham won 10 league championships as a Bruin and holds four league records. He also owns several Ponderosa school records and last May was third in the Sac-Joaquin Section Section in the 500 free. His All-American time broke a school record by 10 seconds.
Certainly accomplishments any Mr. Ponderosa could be proud of. Wait, he is Mr. Ponderosa!