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Swimming: Wilsonville's Christie Halverson wins 5A state title in girls 500 free

Senior bounces back from disqualification in previous event


by: GREG ARTMAN / FILE - Christie Halverson led the Wilsonville swimming team at the Class 5A championships Feb. 21-22 at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, winning a state title in the girls 500-yard freestyle race.Christie Halverson had to be careful as she took her position on the starting block for the finals of the girls 500-yard freestyle race.

Extra, extra careful.

Earlier in the morning Feb. 22, the star Wilsonville senior clocked the fastest time in the 200 free before being disqualified for an illegal rocking motion on the entry board.

But she found a silver lining — and turned it into gold.

Halverson bounced back in a big way in the final event of her high school career, capturing a state title in the 500 free at the Class 5A swimming championships at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

“If I did officially win the 200 free, I probably would’ve been satisfied and said, ‘Good enough,’” she said. “Maybe I wouldn’t have pushed myself as hard in the 500.”

Halverson pushed her way to a time of 5 minutes 1.02 seconds in the longer race, edging Bend-Summit junior Mackenzie Halligan (5:01.93) by about nine-tenths of a second.

It was the second career state title for Halverson, who won the 200 free as a sophomore with a time of 1:53.10. The Wildcats have now won 15 event state titles in girls program history.

Halverson wraps up her stellar four years at Wilsonville with seven top-four finishes at the state meet.

She became the third swimmer in school history to win the girls 500 free, joining Amy Garrick (1999-2000) and Ginny Connell (2002, 2004-05).

There was a redemptive quality to the title for Halverson, who had finished behind Halligan in the high school distance race in each of the previous two seasons.

Halfway through this year’s final, Halverson was leading Halligan by less than two-tenths of a second.

“Towards the end, I was close to Mackenzie and thought, ‘I’m going to go for it,’” she said. “I’ve always known her to be at a level above me. Mackenzie still had really great swims, and I thanked her after the race. It helped having her swimming right next to me.”

There was also a therapeutic tinge to the first-place finish for Halverson, whose performance at last year’s state meet was hampered by an illness that limited her lung capacity. She still managed to reach the podium in both of her races but wasn’t able to earn the top spot in either one.

Halverson said she was recovering from bronchitis entering this year’s Northwest Oregon Conference championships, where she won district titles in both of her individual events.

“I’ve learned a lot from last year about sickness and recovery and focus,” she said. “It didn’t really affect me at state this year.”

After posting the fastest time in the 200 free prelims with a 1:53.60 a day earlier, Halverson was first to touch the wall in the finals with a personal-record 1:52.46. Halligan managed a 1:53.75.

Then, while swimming a few laps in the practice pool to cool down, Halverson was approached by her Tigard Tualatin Swim Club coach. Jeanine Serrano was holding a yellow slip of paper.

“I had never seen one of those,” said Halverson, whose eventual disqualification put Halligan in first place. “I was like, ‘Oh, man. Can I go back and do it again?’

“I was really nervous, and I must have been fidgeting a little. Right after they said, ‘Take your mark,’ and right before the (starting) beep, I rolled back a little bit. I don’t remember the specific moment doing that, and it was the first time in five years of competitive swimming that I’ve ever been disqualified. But I respect the call. I’m still happy with my swim. I went out there and did my best. I’m disappointed, but I guess it was God’s way of keeping me humble.”

Halverson, who entered the state meet with a focus on her shorter race, said the disqualification forced her to concentrate on the 500.

She ended up a couple seconds shy of her personal-best mark (4:59.11) but did enough to earn the podium’s top spot, which she claimed after Wilsonville coach Deb Mandeville placed a medal around her neck in an awards ceremony.

“I just had that drive after not being able to retain a medal in the 200,” Halverson said. “I knew there was some anger in there, too, but I didn’t want to let that show and I just tried to take it out in the water. It wasn’t a swim fueled by anger — it was just going for another chance.”

That chance couldn’t come quickly enough for Halverson, who spent the time between Friday’s prelims and Saturday’s finals analyzing her opponents’ lap splits and checking online for friends’ results in the 6A meet. She also took an exam at school and worked on an essay for one of her classes.

“I was just trying not to freak myself out too much,” she said.

Halverson, who celebrated her championship with an evening of skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows, will graduate after achieving success at the state level against an elite crop of swimmers that included Halligan, Portland-Wilson’s Grace Carlson (now at Stanford) and Corvallis’ Jessie James (now at Louisiana State).

Halverson also plans to continue her swimming career in college. The prospective nursing student is currently deciding between Pacific Lutheran (Tacoma, Wash.) and California Baptist (Riverside, Calif.).

Halverson said she was grateful to have the support of teammates and friends at her last high school state meet.

“They shared my victory, and then my disappointment — and then my victory,” she said.

***

Noah Norris finished his first season on the Wilsonville swimming team with two state medals.

The sophomore, who transferred from North Marion, took second place in the 5A boys 50-yard freestyle race and added a third-place finish in the 100 butterfly.

In the 50 free, Norris logged a time of 21.80 seconds to finish a second behind Summit junior Tommy Brewer (20.80). Norris was a district champion in the event with a 21.75.

In the 100 fly, Norris touched the wall in 52.64 seconds to end up behind Liberty senior Anton Loncar (50.01) and Springfield senior Carlos Hunnicutt (50.05).

Norris was also a member of the Wildcats’ state-qualifying 200 free relay squad, which also included sophomore Drew Zimmerman and freshmen Chris Glaess and Derek Webb.

The quartet did not advance to the event finals, clocking a 1:37.00 in the prelims to finish in 10th out of 12 teams. Portland-Wilson went on to win the title in 1:29.44.

***

Wilsonville was also represented at the state meet in two girls relays.

Halverson, senior Carolina Ramirez and juniors Hannah Cesario and Bri Fernandez competed in the 200 free relay, posting a 1:50.06 to take 11th in the prelims. Halligan led Summit to a title in 1:40.84.

Halverson, Ramirez and Cesario then joined senior Emma Harms in the 400 free relay. The quartet was unable to advance to the finals, taking 10th in the prelims with a 4:02.81. Halligan paced Summit to another championship in 3:36.82.

***

Wilsonville finished in ninth place with nine points on the boys side and took 11th on the girls side with seven points.

Summit swept the team titles in dominant fashion, outscoring boys runner-up Springfield 69-37 routing girls runner-up Bend 86-36.

***

AT A GLANCE

Class 5A swimming championships

Feb. 21-22 at Mt. Hood Community College (Gresham)

BOYS: 1. Summit, 69; 2. Springfield, 37; 2. Mountain View, 37; 4. Liberty, 36; 5. Wilson, 30; 6. Bend, 23; 7. Lebanon, 14; 8. West Albany, 11; 9. Sandy, 9; 9. Wilsonville, 9; 11. Pendleton, 8; 12. Crescent Valley, 6; 12. Corvallis, 6; 14. Ashland, 5; 15. Cleveland, 4; 16. South Albany, 2; 17. Madison, 1.

GIRLS: 1. Summit, 86; 2. Bend, 36; 3. Hood River, 34; 4. Sandy, 30; 5. West Albany, 29; 6. Mountain View, 15; 7. Corvallis, 13; 8. Sherwood, 12; 8. Lebanon, 12; 10. South Albany, 10; 11. Wilson, 7; 11. Wilsonville, 7; 13. Franklin, 5; 14; Liberty, 3; 15. North Eugene, 2; 15. Madison, 2; 17. Marist, 1; 17. Crescent Valley, 1.

***

SUSTAINED SUCCESS

Christie Halverson’s state performances in the 200 free:

2011: 3rd, 1:56.36 (behind Crescent Valley’s Lauren Allen and Summit’s Madi Brewer)

2012: 1st, 1:53.10 (ahead of Sherwood’s Julia Bush)

2013: 4th, 1:52.44 (behind Wilson’s Grace Carlson, Bush and Summit’s Mackenzie Halligan)

2014: DQ, 1:52.46 (Halligan wins by default)

Christie Halverson’s state performances in the 500 free:

2011: 3rd, 5:11.40 (behind Corvallis’ Jessie James and Mountain View’s Phoebe Weedman)

2012: 3rd, 5:03.93 (behind James and Halligan)

2013: 2nd, 5:06.78 (behind Halligan)

2014: 1st, 5:01.02 (ahead of Halligan)




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