Jamie Engan, Abby Niehoff and Kevin Dyer logged first-place finishes in their respective 1,500-meter freestyle divisions to provide bright spots for the host Carson Tigersharks at the Intermountain Classic long-course age group meet on Friday afternoon.
Engan and Niehoff were first and second overall in the women's 1,500 - Engan was first in the 15-18 age group and Niehoff first in the 13-14 division - while Dyer took first in his 13-14 age group and third overall during the opening day of the annual Memorial Day weekend meet at the Carson Aquatic Facility.
Place finishes were not a primary focus for Tigersharks coach Jim Puleo during competition in a meet that has attracted swimmers from California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Instead, he looked at what the swimmers did on their way to the finish.
"That's a good swim for Kevin right there," Puleo said after Dyer checked in with a time of 17 minutes, 42.88 seconds. "He finished third, but the two Bend kids ahead of him are both senior national qualifiers. What pleased me, he did exactly what I asked of him. The goal was to swim negative splits and that's what he did - by 12 seconds."
Two standouts from the Bend (Ore.) Swim Club swept the top two places: Logan Madson, a Summit High senior who has signed to swim at Auburn University, won in 17:08.22; and Henry Holmberg, who had a successful freshman season for the University of Wyoming earlier this spring, was second in 17:22.87.
Engan, a Carson High junior who has qualified for the senior national championships later this summer, turned a time of 17:46.50 to finish just ahead of 14-year-old teammate Abby Niehoff in 17:47.07.
"I asked both girls to descend by the 500s and for their first long course mile of the season, those were pretty good swims," Puleo said.
Looking at the splits, Engan narrowly missed her objective as she swam 500 splits of 5:58, 5:53 and 5:54. Niehoff went 5:59, 5:55 and 5:52, and her 1:06.13 effort over the final 100 meters turned a four-second deficit behind Engan into a gap of just .57 at the finish.
"Abby is just a hard working kid. She was cranking there at the end," Puleo said of Niehoff.
Hilary Schlager placed second in the 15-18 age group (19:03.30), Barbara Perkins third (19:03.75) and Samantha Ashmore seventh (20:08.02) for the Tigersharks. Tatum Boehnke was third in the 13-14 age group (19:09.54), Caroline Suh sixth (20:43.25) and Julie Asire eighth (21:34.55).
Third-place overall was taken by 19-year-old Jenni Stratton of the David Douglas Swim Club in Portland. Stratton qualified for the NCAA Championships as a freshman for nationally ranked Texas A&M earlier this spring.
Thirteen members of the David Douglas club made the two-day trip from Portland to Carson City to compete in the four-day meet.
"Twelve kids and me," chuckled 43-year-old Dennis Baker, a member of the David Douglas coaching staff who is also entered in three events this weekend.
Don't make fun of the "old guy," though. Baker qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials three times in the 1980s, won two Pac-10 Conference championships when he was at the University of Arizona and later set a world men's masters 40-44 age group record in the 200 butterfly. He will swim the 400 individual medley today, as well as the 400 freestyle and 200 butterfly on Sunday.
"This is a great training meet to come to, great elevation training," Baker said. "I like this facility, I like the area and it's just a lot of fun for these kids. For some of them, this is their first long trip away from home."
Puleo echoed Baker's words about the meet's training value.
"This is a good chance to get what I call block time," the Carson coach said. "We want to get them up in the blocks and see what they can do."
Two highlights in the younger age groups came from Cody Gillenwater and his sister, Michaela Gillenwater. Cody took first-place in the 11-12 boys 400 freestyle in 5:34.86, a personal best by nearly 12 seconds, and Micahaela placed sixth in the 9-10 girls 400 freestyle in 6:09.37, a personal record by 45 seconds.
Jacob Branco placed fifth in the 11-12 boys 400 freestyle (6:21.34), Ashton McIntosh sixth (6:24.25) and Tim Grunert seventh (6:29.98).
Sam Ballard of the Tigersharks finished 10th in the 15-18 men's 1,500 in 21:16. Mike Freeman of Gardnerville, who was swimming unattached, finished in a personal best time of 21:47. Ballard and Freeman both qualified for the Nevada high school state championships last weekend for their respective Carson and Douglas squads.
After the opening day, the Tigersharks lead in the team point stands with 76 points, followed by Spare Time Aquatics (Sacramento) (50) and Bend (45).
n Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-1220.