AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals“When he was a freshman, all of the rest of the guys were seniors and they used to give him a hard time because he’d beat them a lot,” Highland coach Judy Remy said. “I told him from the beginning that I had the confidence in him, that he just needed to start believing in himself.” Remy and fellow Highland coach Mike Timperio saw Bishop’s confidence level increase dramatically last season after a 50-yard freestyle race against Quartz Hill’s Matt Smith, one of the top all-around swimmers ever to compete in the Antelope Valley. Although most of the coaches and spectators in attendance at Eastside Pool believed Smith touched the wall before the sophomore, the watches indicated a 22.64 to 22.81 victory for Bishop. “That was a big ego boost for Billy. He looked up to Matt,” Remy said. “Having the chance to swim against Matt was just (the competition) Billy needed.” Bishop came back less than a week later to win the league title in the 50free en route to a 13th-place finish at last year’s division finals. He also placed sixth in the 100 free. On the pool deck, he resembles more of a rock star than a swimmer – oversized jacket, hat tilted slightly sideways, black sunglasses hiding his eyes and usually surrounded by at least a half-dozen friends, fans or fellow competitors. On the starting blocks, he’s an intimidating presence, with his 6-foot-4 frame towering over his competition. In the water, he’s a dream teammate and any Golden League opponent’s worst nightmare, especially if they happen to be matched up with him on the anchor leg of a relay. In less than three years, Highland High junior Billy Bishop has evolved from being a good swimmer on an improving team to a three-time league champion. He has matured from being a promising freshman who often lacked confidence to the Bulldogs’ charismatic leader. And he has gone from only competing on relays at the Southern Section finals to becoming a potential Div. IV individual champion. Those results proved to be the building blocks for a junior campaign in which Bishop has battled stroke for stroke with some of the best swimmers in Southern California. “In the 50 and the 100, he’s proved that he can hang with anyone,” said Timperio, a former four-time Southern Section finals qualifier at Palmdale. “Even if he has a bad start or a bad turn, he’s able to make it up because he’s so long.” After winning the 50 and 100 frees at the May 3 league finals, Bishop secured his position in the championship heat – eight fastest qualifiers – of both events at Tuesday’s division prelims at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach. “He’s got so much natural talent and you can’t teach that,” said Quartz Hill coach Mark Thibault, a three-time finalist while swimming with Timperio at Palmdale. “But when he’s in the water, he’s a competitor, there’s no doubt about it.” Tonight, with his mother Deb and sophomore brother, Justin, cheering him on, Bishop could become the first male swimmer from the Antelope Valley to win a division title since Palmdale’s Walter Beddeo in 1980. Beddeo, who went on to coach at Palmdale, captured Div.2-A championships in the 200 and 500 frees in 1979 and 1980. Michele Kumaus is the only Highland swimmer ever to win a title, capturing the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke at the 2003 Div.IV finals. “It’s time for me to put the pedal to the metal, to keep pushing forward,” Bishop said. “I want to take it.” Bishop, who clocked 22.13 to qualify third in the 50 free, will have his work cut out against Bonita of La Verne’s Brett Hays (21.60) and Crossroads of Santa Monica’s Ryland Arnoldi (21.96). “I’m going to eat raw meat,” said Bishop, who also qualified seventh in the 100 free (48.97). Bishop’s season-best was 21.92 in Highland’s dual meet April 27 against Quartz Hill. But Remy knows he’s capable of going faster, having watched him produce better splits on relays all season. “He hasn’t really had that many opportunities to race this year,” Remy said. “But at least he’ll be in the lane right next to (Brett Hays) so he’ll be able to see him.” Bishop has an additional goal of advancing to the inaugural Masters meet, scheduled for Tuesday at Belmont Plaza. In order for a swimmer or relay to qualify for the competition, they must record one of the top 24 times – regardless of division – at the division finals. Entering the division prelims, the projected Masters’ cutoffs were 22.01 in the 50 free and 48.29 in the 100. “Hopefully I can do it,” Bishop said. “That would be an unbelievable experience.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!