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Mathias, Metro League swimming stars rule 6A state meet
The Metro League's far-reaching galaxy of superstars again fit the bill on the state's biggest platform.
Before an involved, enthusiastic crowd at the Mt. Hood Community College Aquatic Center, Beaverton senior Van Mathias, Westview senior Ethan Luc and Sunset junior Caspar Corbeau turned the Class 6A state championship into a humble grandstand of sorts.
Mathias was a one-man show, winning the 100 fly (47.90) and 200 individual medley (1:48.16), setting new state records in the process en route to his second consecutive Male Athlete of the Meet award. Luc successfully defended his state title in the 100 free, garnering All-American consideration with a 45.50 finish. And Corbeau emptied his tank despite battling the flu, winning the 100 breaststroke (55.72), anchoring Sunset's victorious 200 free relay and taking third in the 50 free (20.81).
Friends on the club circuit and outside of the pool who good-naturedly get on each other to swim faster, train harder and fight it out for bragging rights, the Metro's three fastest sprinters shown brightly.
"Today I just wanted to have fun," Mathias said. "I've been doing this for quite a while. I know a lot these guys and they've been doing it for quite a while. We all just had a good time and raced fast. That's all it really is when it comes down to it."
Mathias closed the book on a storybook four-year Beaver campaign with four career state championships. On Saturday the University of Indiana signee added two more medals to a collection that's swelled from season to season. He's probably the best swimmer to ever pass through the Beaverton High hallways, but you'd never hear that come out of Mathias' mouth. He's as modest a superstar as there is in a sport propped up by ego and individualistic intentions. In the meet's aftermath, Mathias turned the personal attention to his hometown and his head coach, Judy Rusaw.
"Winning these medals makes Beaverton look good," Mathias said. "It's your school, your teachers, your friends and peers. It's a good community of people to work with. I'm sad to be leaving. Judy's played a big part. She's a sweetheart. She loves coaching. And I had a lot of good seniors in the past who were great role models and handed down the torch to me. I tried to be the best leader and role model I could be. Hopefully, I did a good job."
Not that any of the state champs had it easy. The early morning start time and trek out to Gresham made for a rather rude wakeup call for all involved on Saturday. With the 'A' finals kicking off at 8:15 a.m., Luc and company had to get themselves out of bed well before the sun came up and prepare for their final meets as high school competitors. Up at 5 a.m. and on the bus by 6, the Metro's best had to shake off the cobwebs.
"If we had this in the afternoon session I would've swum a lot faster, but I'm fine with (the 100 free)," Luc said. "It was horrible getting up that early. My alarm went off and I wanted to sleep some more. I let my dogs out and had some food, but even then I still wasn't awake until about halfway through warmups."
It's one thing to sift through an early morning workout, mindlessly going through the motions and whirling up and down the lane without much pressure. But to galvanize yourself for a high level, passionate state final was an entirely different beast. Yet, Luc came off his third place 50 free with a gallant effort in the 100, getting off to a great start in the first half of the race and pulling away from the rest of the heat to win by more than a second. The Northern California transplant made a big splash Westview, winning two state championships in the 100 free while reaching the 'A' finals in both sprint events in all three seasons as a Wildcat.
"I wasn't really thinking about anything, I just kind of went for it," Luc said. "I was just trying to swim lights-out. I didn't know how I was going to do until I hit the pool, but I was just gonna go for it. It feels good defending my state title, I'm really happy with it."
To boot, Corbeau dealt with an unfortunate flu bug that had him coughing and trying to catch his breath throughout the day. But the Apollo junior couldn't let any illness stand in his way of state glory.
"It was mind over emotions, mind over everything," Corbeau said. "I think it's fairly easy to get going in this kind of environment. My peers motivated me and I feel like that was the main drive."
Corbeau blitzed past the breaststroke field, coming within hundredths of a second from breaking the all-time 6A state record and winning the race by more than three seconds.
"I knew nobody was going to contest me, so it was more of an individual race," Corbeau said. "I was focused on what I could to do. I didn't feel too good, but it was a good effort."
Corbeau was Sunset's anchor in the 200 free relay, overcoming a huge deficit down the stretch with a superhuman-like swim that took the Apollos from last place to first in the span of 50 meters.
"I looked up the board just before (Corbeau) went in and I was just like 'There's no way,'" Sunset senior Christian Walker said. "Roseburg was so far ahead. But I about broke by hand on the (starting) block, I was so excited. That was awesome. When (Corbeau) gets mad, he can swim really fast. He knew we were behind and he just went insane."
Walker, Miles Imai and Angus Corbeau, Caspar's little brother, fended off Westview (1:28.68) and Roseburg (1:28.75), both of whom got to sizable leads to begin the race. Imai, the only swimmer of the four Apollos who doesn't compete at the club level, swam third, held it down and helped give the proverbial baton to Corbeau.
"We knew if we kept it close enough, Caspar could come in and finish it," Walker said. "I knew when Corbeau came up (after the turn), I knew we had it. Westview was motivating us, too. They didn't go that fast at districts, but they changed their lineup around. We didn't want to get beat by them. I think it shows our depth. Miles has some true talent to not swim year-round, come to the state meet and still compete the way he did."
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