Kayla Heath's bid for her first individual title came up a touch short in the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A swimming state championships Friday at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

Kayla Heath's bid for her first individual title came up a touch short in the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A swimming state championships Friday at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

The Phoenix senior finished second for the third consecutive year in the 50-yard freestyle, then followed up with a fourth place in the 100 backstroke. She also swam the anchor leg on the Pirates' 400 free relay that placed sixth.

"It's hard to be runner-up a lot," said Jim Heath, the Phoenix coach and Kayla's father. "You want the gold and you try your hardest. She was working hard to do her best and just came up a fingertip short."

Heath's friend and District 4 rival, Melinda Duran of Henley, captured the 50 free, one week after finishing behind Heath at district. Duran's time was 25.25 seconds to Heath's 25.59. Demi Maus of Cottage Grove was third in 25.65.

In the Class 5A preliminaries earlier in the day, Ashland advanced its boys 200 medley relay and its boys 400 free relay.

Crater didn't have anyone make it to the finals.

The 6A and 5A finals are today.

Heath, who was on a championship relay team as a freshman, was only one-10th of a second off her school record of 25.49, which was the top time entering the state meet.

"We were glad she was able to do just about what her time was before and better than she was seeded," said Jim Heath of his daughter, who had the third fastest preliminary time a day earlier. "We just didn't know how the field would go."

Heath's reaction time, which is measured at the facility, was fastest off the blocks, and she went into the halfway turn first. But Duran, who coach Heath says is almost a foot taller than his daughter, came out of the turn even with her.

"Kayla was trying to outsprint her in the home stretch but couldn't quite keep up," said Jim Heath.

The 100 back, in which Heath placed third last year, was difficult in the wake of the 50 free disappointment, said Jim Heath.

"She was really ready for it," he said. "We both just might have put too much pressure on it. She's a senior, it's her second event at state, let's see how good she could do with this. She wanted it really bad, it just wasn't her day."

In the 100 back, she got off to a solid start again and did some fine underwater work and through the first turn, said her dad. But she came up short on the second turn and played catch-up the rest of the way.

Her time was 1:05.38, or 1.4 seconds off her career best, which she set at the district meet. Henley's Kristin McBride won in 1:03.72.

The Phoenix relay got strong efforts from Nicole Knutson and Dana Fong on the first and third legs, respectively, and Tessa Lockett and Heath did their parts as the team clocked 4:12.23. Marist won in 3:42.93.

The Pirate girls placed ninth with 10 points. Marist triumphed with 66. Sweet Home took the boys title with 64 points.

In boys events, Hidden Valley's Chase Kearney was third in the 50 free in 23.44, and teammate Matt Pepitone was sixth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.50.

Ashland's 200 medley relay of Troy Robinson, Jake Gavin, Lucas Opgenorth and Robin Hasse qualified fifth in 1:48.81.

The 400 free relay of Opgenorth, Robinson, Hasse and Johnathan Plumlee had the No. 6 prelim time of 3:27.83.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com