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King makes mad Dash to two titles

The state crown that Dash King coveted from the time he took up competitive swimming was at his fingertips.

Then it wasn't, or so he thought.

In a maddening end to the 50-yard freestyle at the Class 5A boys swimming championships at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham on Saturday, King was the first to finish. He hit the pool wall but missed the touch pad that electronically records the time and order of finish.

Realizing his mistake, King swiped at the pad a second time, but it appeared he was too late. The scoreboard showed him finishing third, and it was only after three manual timers with stopwatches conferred with officials that King was rightfully declared the winner.

It was the first of two state titles for the Ashland senior, who cruised to a much less dramatic victory in the 100 free.

King is the Grizzlies' first state champion since Brad Scoles won the 100 free in 2002 and the first two-time winner since Curtis Taylor captured the two sprints in 1990.

King didn't feel like a winner immediately after the 50 free, in which he narrowly defeated Glencoe's Keith Andrews, 22.05 seconds to 22.09. King's time was determined by an average of the three hand-timed marks.

"I was very upset," he said of his initial reaction to the scoreboard reading. "I wasn't upset because he (Andrews) beat me because he's very worthy. But missing the pad is just such an elementary mistake. I was real upset, first that I made that mistake, and second that it was going to cost me the state championship."

He couldn't get out of the pool and away from deck fast enough. Five minutes later, King was found and told that the officials upheld his triumph.

"My friends say my face went from complete gloom to on the verge of crying because I was so happy," he said. "It was a pretty marked emotional difference."

King's performance was the highlight, but a couple of other local swimmers fared well also.

Phoenix's Kayla Heath and Courtney Nelson each earned a second and a third in individiual girls events and helped the 200 free relay team to fourth place in the Class 4A /3A/2A/1A meet. The Pirates placed seventh in the team standings.

King was the top seed in both freestyle events and expected his biggest challenge to come from West Albany's Kyle Hausheer, who swam the No. 2 preliminary times in each event. But Andrews had other ideas, at least in the 50, in which Hausheer was third in 22.18.

"I noticed coming out of the turn that he (Andrews) was right at my arm length," said King. "He was right there tied with me. I thought, 'Well, this is interesting.'"

On the last stroke, King touched below the pad, and that's when things got too interesting.

His coach, Steve Mitzel, and other Southern Sky Conference coaches were watching closely and offered their accounts of King's victory to the officials.

"There's a reason they have that process," Mitzel said of backup manual timers. "They want the first-place swimmer to be the first-place swimmer."

King's time was .13 faster than his previous best in the 50, which is somewhat surprising, he said, because he was the last off the starting blocks.

He had a similar slow start in the 100, but it didn't prevent him from winning comfortably. King's time of 48.73 seconds was well ahead of runner-up Hausheer, who clocked 49.14.

There was no mistaking when King hit the pad at the end of this race.

"I looked up on the very last stroke," he said. "I was going to touch this pad. I didn't care if I brought my head up and broke form. I was going to get an official time and not wait for a timer to tell me it was all right."

King's lone concern before that was getting to the finish. He has occasionally lost his kicking power at the end of 100 yards, enabling opponents to catch him.

"My dream was to be a double champion," said King. "I knew if I let my kick fall out I wouldn't achieve it. I just kicked as hard as I could no matter how much it hurt."

The pain didn't last long.

"This really couldn't have gone any better," said King. "I spent years dreaming of this happening, and it's gone exactly as I dreamt it would."

King ended his day by helping the Grizzlies' 400 free relay place fifth in 3:28.76. His teammates were Lucas Opegenorth, Rafferty Swink and Troy Robinson.

Crater had several finalists in the 5A meet.

Kyle Kinser placed fourth in both the boys 200 free in 1:48.40 and the 100 backstroke in 57.24; Callie Kinser was fifth in the girls 50 free in 25.33; Anya Martinez was sixth in the girls 100 breaststroke in 1:11.47; and the Comets' girls 200 medley relay of Nicole Pecheny, Martinez, Kinser and Amber Parker was fourth in 1:59.44.

Phoenix's Heath nearly came up with a state title of her own. The junior finished just behind Brittany Baldessari of Sisters in the 100 back with a time of 1:04.36. The winning time was 1:04.20.

"That was a tremendous race, quite a photo finish," said Jim Heath, the Pirates coach and Kayla's dad. "On that last stroke, they dropped their heads and dove for the wall. We couldn't tell. I looked immediately at the scoreboard. It was too close to see by the eye."

Heath placed third in the 50 free with a time of 25.77. Henley's Stephanie North won in 24.06. North also won the 100 free and anchored two winning relay teams.

The 25.77 was a lifetime best and school record — until she bettered both on the first leg of the 200 free relay with a mark of 25.55.

"She's a racer," said Jim Heath. "She's determined and likes to race and tries to win. Even a couple of coaches made comments to me and to their girls that, when you're racing Kayla, you've got to finish or she'll eat you up. She's a good finisher."

Nelson swam to personal bests and school records in the 200 free, in which she placed second, and the 100 butterfly, in which she was third. She went 2:03.23 in the free, breaking her own school mark and finishing behind winner Rachel Heaney of North Bend, who clocked in 1:57.35.

Nelson's mark in the fly was 1:04.93, bettering older sister Kelsey's Pirate record of 1:05.42 in 2004.

"It was awesome to see a senior like that mature into handling those situations," Jim Heath said, "not letting them get to her and focusing. Courtney's been one of our hardest workers in practice."

Heath and Nelson were joined on the 200 free relay by Molly Hobson and Megan Burr. They clocked 1:47.58.

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

Phoenix swimmer Kayla Heath races to the finish line in the Class 4A girls 100-yard backstroke on Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College. Heath took second place in the event, 16 one-hundredths of a second behind the winner.