Gabriel Wood was poised for a triumphant comeback one year after missing out on a chance at a state title by the slimmest of margins.
The Rouse junior qualified for the final in the boys’ 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.59, good for the eighth and final spot at the Swimming & Diving State Meet Friday afternoon. As a sophomore last year, he finished ninth in the prelims, .03 seconds behind the qualifying position.
“I’ve been training more and I’ve been working on swimming more than other things and just put more time in the pool,” Wood said. “I joined a club and that helped me get to finals. I’m trying to drop a decent amount of time.”
His time was .02 seconds faster than his seeding time at the regional meet and he beat out the ninth place athlete by .01 second.
The 50-yard freestyle final is the eighth event during the Class 5A finals, which begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
“He’s already been to state, so the goal wasn’t to get to state, it was to get much better at state,” Rouse head coach Chris Eikenbary said. “For him to come back and not just make it to the second day, but be in the top 8, that’s exactly what he wanted to shoot for.”
Summer Fullwood will be the only other Raider swimmer competing on Saturday. She knocked nearly a full second off her time in the girls’ 100-yard butterfly, finishing in a tie for 11th place with a time of 59.12. She’ll compete in the consolation final, which is event No. 11.
This was the senior’s one and only year with the Rouse swim team, and Eikenbary said she made the most of it.
“Why she wanted to join and what she found great about it was the team mentality you get with the high school team,” he said. “That was she was able to get out of it. She got the sense of camaraderie and that’s what helped contribute to that emotional finish at the end.”
In the girls’ 200-yard freestyle, the team of Jaide Castle, Brynn Stokes, Taylor Shorb and Fullwood finished in 18th place with a time of 1:43.69. They missed the consolation final by .54 seconds.
“It feels exciting because a lot of the kids are seniors so it was an emotional finish,” Eikenbary said. “But it was a happy thing because (the team) was important to them.”