CORVALLIS — Dallas High sophomore Jolie-Rae Ford is returning to state after a record-setting performance on Saturday.
Ford set a school record in the girls 200-yard freestyle, winning the Mid-Willamette Conference district title in the process, finishing with a time of 1 minute, 57.85 seconds.
“I felt wonderful and excited,” Ford said. “I knew it was going to be tough. There are some really good swimmers. When I was in prelims, my only thought was to make finals. Becoming a district champ in the 200 is more than I could hope for.”
Ford also placed second in the 500 freestyle in 5:20.24, earning a wildcard berth in the event to the Class 5A state swimming championships on Friday and Saturday at the Mt. Hood Community College Aquatic Center in Gresham.
Winners of individual and relay events, as well as those whose times are among the 12 fastest in the state at district competitions, qualified for the state meet.
“Last year, she was a freshman and I think state was a little overwhelming for her,” Dallas coach Jeff Bemrose said. “This year, she has a lot more confidence. She has more big meets under her belt and the strangeness of the venue isn’t there anymore.”
Ford is seeded third in the 500 freestyle and fourth in the 200 freestyle. She is the Dragons’ lone state qualifier.
“We’ll continue to taper and go over more technical stuff,” Bemrose said. “We’ll work on hand signals so I can communicate with her on the 500 (freestyle) and let her know where she is during the race.”
Despite making state in back-to-back years, Ford said she’s still not used to the feeling.
“I am definitely a little nervous, but I just have to l-ook at it as just another meet so I’m not freaking out about it,” Ford said. “Districts really helped me finally see some of the results of my training. That is what I am taking into state with me.”
Bemrose had hoped both junior Elizabeth Dressel and senior Jesse Genualdi would receive at-large bids to the state championships, but their times weren’t fast enough to qualify.
Dressel finished fourth in the girls 100 backstroke in 1:05.21. Genualdi placed fif-th in the boys 100 butterfly in 1:01.67.
Lucas Diaz suffered a sprained right ankle on Feb. 11, preventing him from competing in any individual or relay events at the district meet.
“I believe we would have qualified a relay for state (if Lucas was healthy),” Bemrose said. “It would have been close, but his injury really crippled our boys relay teams.”
Despite only qualifying one competitor to state, Bemrose said he was pleased with his team’s effort.
“Everyone swam their fastest times all season,” Bemrose said. “We had great performances from everyone, but there were just some fast times this season.”
The Central High boys swim team had qualifiers in two events for this weekend’s Class 5A state swimming championships.
The Panthers saw their boys 200 medley relay team of Daniel Glade, Nathan Glade, Ryan Rosas and Orion Waight qualify for the state championships, while Nathan Glade earned a state berth in the 100 breaststroke.
Glade placed second in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:02.38 on Saturday. He is seeded fourth at state.
“He has a different mindset,” Central coach Shawn Martin said. “The last couple years, he focused on districts as his last race. This year, even on the bus ride home, he was focused on what he’s going to do at state.”
The relay team finished second with a time of 1:50.52 and is seeded ninth at state.
“Our relay team did really well,” Martin said. “Our boys posted pretty good times, but they have room to improve, which is nice to see. I think for Daniel (Glade), this will be a good experience and it will be good for everyone returning next year to see we can aim higher than just districts.”
The girls squad did not have a state qualifier. Caitie Miller took third in the 100 breaststroke, finishing in 1:22.60. Julissa Amador placed sixth in the 50 freestyle (28.06), while Annie Taylor finished sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:15.07).
State preliminary heats for Class 5A begin Friday at 6:30 p.m. Finals begin Saturday at 6:45 p.m.