Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
For as fast as he is in the swimming pool, Cascade Christian senior Aaron Ghiglieri wanted to take his time choosing the next venue in which he would compete.
After a lengthy recruiting process that included five college visits, Ghiglieri happily landed with his top choice recently by making a verbal commitment to the University of Michigan swim program.
"It was pretty stressful for a while but the outcome was the best I could've hoped for," said Ghiglieri, who expects to make his commitment official within the next few weeks.
Ghiglieri also visited Louisville, Boston University, Texas A&M and Wyoming but found a perfect fit on his trip to Ann Arbor, Mich., two weeks ago. Michigan's men's swimming and diving team wrapped up a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in late March after earning its 36th Big Ten championship.
"I liked Michigan the best by far," he said. "The team is really close, the facilities are amazing, not just for swimming, obviously, but for all athletes and there's tremendous academic support that's second to none."
Another drawing card for Ghiglieri was the opportunity to develop as a swimmer under the guidance of fourth-year head coach Mike Bottom, who has coached at each of the last four Olympic Games and is a foremost figure in developing sprinters. Among his most notable proteges is 10-time Olympic medalist Gary Hall Jr.
"The coach of the swim team is really one of the best coaches in the country, if not the best," said Ghiglieri, 18. "If you were playing basketball, it would be like playing basketball for Mike Krzyzewski (of Duke) or something like that."
Bottom had exchanged emails with Ghiglieri before offering a recruiting trip about a month ago. One hurdle that Ghiglieri had to clear before anything could happen was his acceptance at Michigan solely on his academic standing, and the 3.7 GPA student came through with flying colors.
On his two-day trip, Ghiglieri got to watch a team practice, get a personal tour of the athletic facilities by Bottom and then meet with an academic advisor to show all the resources that would be available to him at Michigan. The 6-foot, 170-pounder left the university in the same mindset as he entered, very impressed with the prospects of being a Wolverine.
"As far as swimming goes, they're a top-5 school and I was looking at least at the top 15 so to get into the top-5 was huge," he said of Michigan, which has finished in the top 13 in each of the last 14 years. "They'll develop what I'm good at and train me for what I'm good at and try to get the most out of me while I'm there."
Ghiglieri won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 butterfly state championships at the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A level in February for Cascade Christian but mainly considers himself a sprint freestyler and flyer. His winning time of 49.52 seconds in the 100 fly — his second straight title in the event — established a meet record and was just off the all-class record of 48.72. His time of 1:51.15 in the 200 IM met the All-American standard.
Before venturing to Michigan, Ghiglieri will attempt to earn qualifying times for the Olympic Trials in two weeks at a meet in Redding, Calif. If he can't accomplish the feat in the 50 free or 100 fly or both, he'll take another shot at them in June.
"The qualifying times are pretty fast themselves," said Ghiglieri, "there's maybe seven or eight people in all of Oregon who have hit them so far."
The qualifying time in the 50 free is 23.49 and he has gone 23.75 so he's not far off in that event. He's even closer in the 100 fly, where his top time is 55.46. The qualifying standard is 55.29.
"It's just will power," he said of reaching his desired marks. "I've come so close so many times. I've gone 55 seconds about 12 times and been within a half second each time, it's so irritating. I'm going to get it one of these times. One of these times it's going to be a different race."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry