One of the most decorated swimmers in Wildcat history, Ben Sapp’s name has not faded away from the record books with the passage of time. The two-time NAIA national champion and 1997 Linfield graduate still holds three individual and two relay top times, standards that have lasted 17 years and counting.
No stranger to the national stage, Sapp competed at the NAIA Championships early and often in his career. As only a freshman, he reached the finals in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke individual events as well as the 200 and 400 medley relays. He set school records in three events, including both of his individual races, to help the Wildcats bring home a fourth-place trophy.
Weeks earlier, Sapp had claimed the first of four consecutive individual crowns in the 100 backstroke at the Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges championship meet. At the end of his first season, he was deservedly honored as the Linfield Rookie of the Year.
Sapp added four more conference championship medals to his mantle during his sophomore campaign, capturing the 100 and 200 backstroke titles along with the 200 and 400 medley relay crowns. He established two conference records as Linfield won its second consecutive league title. The sophomore then went on to repeat as a first team All-American in a pair of individual events and two relays at the NAIA Championships.
Armed with two years of collegiate experience and an arsenal of talent and confidence, Sapp really set out to make a name for himself as a junior.
After winning five events at the league championships – for which he was crowned the NCIC Swimmer of the Meet/Year – Sapp won the first of back-to-back titles at the NAIA Championships in the 100-yard backstroke. He swam nearly a half-second faster in his signature event than he had at the previous year’s championships, and also achieved first team All-American status in five additional events. At year’s end, he was honored with the team’s MVP award.
Sapp successfully defended his individual title as a senior, becoming just the third Linfield athlete to achieve back-to-back feats at the national level. He served as team captain that year, earned six first team All-America citations and was again chosen as the Wildcats’ top swimmer.
After graduating from Linfield, Sapp relocated to New Mexico to work on the Booster Neutrino Experiment, dealing with the sub-atomic particle. Since 2002, he has worked in the Advanced Nuclear technology group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, constructing nuclear instrumentation, including airborne cameras, for national security purposes. In addition to degrees in mathematics and applied physics from Linfield, Sapp also holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico.
He and his wife of 15 years, Tara, live in Los Alamos with their three children: Colby (10), Ellen (7) and Abigail (4).