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Sapienza makes national finals, places eighth

AUSTIN, Texas — Breanna Sapienza of Superior Stingray Swimming made her first career A final at the 2011 Speedo Short Course Junior National Championships Friday, but a bit of bad luck hindered her attempt at a strong finish.

Nevertheless, the 16-year-old Cascade Christian High student placed eighth nationally in the girls 100-yard butterfly with a time of 55.46 seconds.

Aaron Ghiglieri, 18, who also swims for Cascade Christian, made the B final in the boys 100 fly and placed third in the race and 11th in the nation in 48.90, a personal best.

The top 24 from preliminary races earlier in the day advanced to the A, B or C evening finals.

Sarah Reierson, 17, of South Medford High, competed in the girls 100 backstroke and 100 fly but didn't advance to the finals.

The meet, featuring more than 800 of the country's best swimmers ages 18 and under, concludes today.

Sapienza, who earlier this year qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 100 fly, bolted to a 54.59 time in the prelims — her career best by eight-10ths of a second and a time that would have placed her fifth in the finals.

She was seeded seventh for the finals and was in third place on the third of four 25-yard lengths. That's when a wave caught her by surprise and knocked her off pace.

"She had a terrific swim, she swam so well," said Superior coach Robin Brickenden. "It happens. Mistakes happen. A small wave hit her in the mouth and choked her, and when that happens, you can't recover in time. She would have probably ended up third, fourth, fifth ... she's worked so hard and improved so much, it's just been awesome."

Brickenden said he could tell something was amiss but didn't know what it was.

"That'll do it," he said of taking on water. "You continue to choke and don't breathe right and it really ties you up."

That's not something competitors can afford in a meet like this, where records are falling at an astonishing rate, said Brickenden, and times are being posted by juniors that once were reserved for the elite national level.

"It's an incredibly fast meet all the way around and from top to bottom," he said. "It's just amazing."

Sapienza competes today in the 100 freestyle and 200 fly, and Brickenden said she has a chance to reach the finals in at least one, if not both, races.

Ghiglieri went out fast and came in in the same fashion, said Brickenden, to clock his PR and place third in the B final.

"I think he's capable of breaking 48," said the coach. "I think he'll get it soon."

Ghiglieri is in the 100 free today and could threaten to make the finals as well with a strong performance, said Brickenden.

Reierson was 96th in the 100 back and 114th in the 100 fly. She was just off her personal bests in both races, clocking 57.83 seconds in the back and 58.70 in the fly.

Reierson is in the 200 back today.

All three will compete in a long-course (meters) meet on Sunday that will allow an opportunity to meet Olympic Trials qualifying times.