Riding The Waves: Cotero Tapia qualifies for state after Visa issue caused mideason return to Mexico

Columbus North’s Diego Cotero Tapia competes in the 100-yard butterfly during Saturday’s boys swimming sectional at Columbus North High School.

Tommy Walker | For The Republic

Diego Cotero Tapia had gotten off to a fast start in his first high school swimming season as an American when his path hit choppy waters.

In early December, the Columbus North junior learned that he would need to return to his native Mexico to have his Visa renewed. He missed about a month of intense training with the Bull Frogs before returning in January.

Cotero Tapia recovered, however, and has made waves of his own. He qualified for this weekend’s Boys Swimming State Finals in the 100-yard butterfly and as part of the Bull Frogs’ 200 freestyle relay team.

“I was happy because I got to see my friends and my family,” Cotero Tapia said of his visit to his homeland over the holidays.

Cotero Tapia said he was able to do a little bit of swimming with his old team while he was in Mexico, but that he was a little behind in training when he returned to Columbus.

“I definitely felt like I was a little bit off,” Cotero Tapia said. “I was a little bit slower. I just trained really hard to get faster for the end of the season because I really wanted to break the (school) record and make the state cut.”

Although he didn’t break the record or the state cut in his third-place finish in the 100 butterfly in 51.67 seconds in Saturday’s North Sectional finals, Cotero Tapia was able to earn 12th and final call-back for non-sectional winners. He found out he got the call-back on Sunday morning.

“I woke up, and I checked it, and saw the note, and it was like, ‘Congratulations, guys,’” Cotero Tapia said. “I checked, and I was in. So I was really excited.”

North coach Mike Cunningham said Cotero Tapia has made huge strides since moving to Columbus in January 2023. He joined Donner Swim Club and eventually earned a cut for the Speedo Sectional.

“Last year when he came, the fastest he had ever been was a 56 in the 100 fly,” Cunningham said. “I had no idea what he could do, other than, his long course times were barely our divisional cuts. So everything he’s done, he’s done being here. He’s dropped five seconds in a year. He’s really adapted to what we do and taken off. He works hard, and he loves to race.”

Cotero Tapia is seeded 25th in the 100 butterfly for Friday’s state preliminaries. The top eight from the prelims earn spots in Saturday’s finals, while 9-through-16 make the consolation finals. Cotero Tapia is only 62-hundreths of a second out of the No. 16 spot.

The Bull Frogs’ 200 freestyle relay team of Aarush Mahato, Jude Abdallah, Cotero Tapia and Isaac Proffitt is seeded 21st with their 1:29.09. They’re less than a half-second out of the 16th spot.

“I was really excited that I got in, so I have another opportunity to improve my time and make that statement,” Cotero Tapia said. “My goal is going 50 and do really good in the relay.”