Whitehead paces Tigard at district swimming
Nathaniel Whitehead didn't repeat as a district champion this year.
But, that's OK. He's still going to state, and he's going with plenty of motivation.
Whitehead, a junior on the Tigard High School boys swimming team, qualified for the upcoming Class 6A state championships in a pair of events after turning in a strong performance at the Three Rivers League district meet, held Friday and Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.
"It was pretty good. I'm not going to lie, I was a little disappointed with the 100 back. I was really hoping to win that one, like last year, but it just wasn't my race today," said Whitehead, who attends Westside Christian High School. "But that's big-time motivation for next week. That will push me a lot."
Each event winner at the district meet, as well as those swimmers, or relay teams, that reach state qualifying standards, or earn wild-card bids, advance to the state meet, which will be held Friday and Saturday at the Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center in Beaverton.
Whitehead qualified for the Class 6A state meet in both the 100-yard backstroke and the 200 individual medley. He'll be joined at the state meet by Tigard junior Jaden Nguyen, who qualified in the 100 breaststroke.
"Jaden has been doing awesome. I'm very proud of him," Whitehead said. "He's been working so hard, and just pushing to do his best, and he has. Jaden is a warrior."
Whitehead, who triumphed at district in the 100 backstroke last year as a junior, finished second in this year's race. Lakeridge freshman Aaron Tran won the race in a time of 53.13 seconds. Whitehead, who has been battling a bout with the flu, and actually missed the Tigers' regular-season finale at Tualatin because of the illness, was second at 53.64. That time, which bettered the state qualifying standard, was better than his winning mark of 54.79 a year ago.
"A lot of things were going through my mind," Whitehead said of the race. "Aaron Tran was just crazy fast. He's really good competition. I don't think I would have been where I was in that race today, without him pushing me."
In the 200 individual medley, Whitehead finished in second place with a time of 1:59.67, which also bettered the state qualifying standard.
"Based on my sickness, I'm about where I want to be," Whitehead said. "I'm happy with this meet overall."
Now, he's looking for better things at this week's state meet.
"Hopefully, I'll do better than I did last year, and keep dropping time," Whitehead said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Nguyen, who went to state last year as a part of a pair of Tigard relay teams, will be making his first trip to state in an individual event, thanks to his second-place finish at district in the 100 breaststroke.
"It's a pretty big accomplishment for me," Nguyen said. "I think, last year, I wasn't really close to second at all, and this year, it feels good. I've been training a lot more."
Nguyen took second place in the 100 breaststroke at district with a time of 1:01.76, which was good enough to give him a wild-card berth to state. Nguyen barely edged out third-place Andy James of Lakeridge, who had a mark of 1:01.81.
"I was able to out-touch for second," Nguyen said. "The guy I out-touched today, out-touched me at the home meet, so it felt good to out-touch him today."
Nguyen also finished fourth in the 200 freestyle in a time of 1:52.00.
"I got fourth, and I dropped from prelims," Nguyen said. "This was a lot of fun."
The Tigard boys finished in sixth place in the team standings at the district meet with 107 points. Lakeridge placed first with a score of 286. Lake Oswego was second at 272.
On the girls side, Tigard finished in eighth place in the team standings with 64.5 points. West Linn was first with 249.5, and St. Mary's Academy was second at 177.
Junior Paige Colligan had the top individual finish for the Tiger girls, placing seventh in the 500 freestyle in 5:44.65. Sophomore Abbigale Elliott was eighth in the 200 individual medley in 2:19.62.
Friday's preliminaries heats at the Class 6A state meet are set to begin at 1:45 p.m. Saturday's championship finals are slated to start at 1:15 p.m.
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