The returning state qualifier wins the boys 50-yard freestyle race in the Cougars dual meet against Portland-Grant, but he isn't completely satisfied with his time.

by: JEFF GOODMAN - Ryan Cully won the boys 50-yard freestyle race with a time of 22.98 seconds during the Canby swimming team's Dec. 19 dual meet against Portland-Grant.Ryan Cully seemed disappointed as he chatted with coach Eric Laitinen during a break in the action Thursday afternoon at the Canby Swim Center.

Moments earlier, Cully had cruised to a victory in the boys 50-yard freestyle race with a time of 22.98 seconds.

But the Canby High School junior wasn’t completely satisfied with his performance.

“Last year my (best) time was a 22.7,” he said. “I know this was still a 22, but I just feel like I can do a lot better this year. I know I’ve been starting out a little sluggish in the past few meets, so I’m just trying to keep working at it.”

Cully didn’t look sluggish against his Portland-Grant competition that day. He took first place in the sprint with relative ease, avoiding the kind of dramatic finish that is often typical of the up-tempo race.

His father, Gordon Cully, pumped his fist in the air after glancing up at the digital scoreboard.

Laitinen noticed that Cully didn’t have an ideal start to the race but was encouraged by his swimmer’s early-season effort and tried to lift his spirits.

For what it’s worth, Cully’s win was the Cougars’ only top finish on the boys side before the 10-minute intermission about halfway through the dual.

“I’m always thinking about the other teams during the meets,” Cully said. “We’ve got to get as many points as we can.”

Of course, Cully is also working towards a bigger, long-term goal. He is the only returning state qualifier on Canby’s roster this year, and he’s hoping for a return to the Class 6A championships in February at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

Last season, Cully captured a Three Rivers League district title in the 50 free with a time of 23.10 to earn an automatic berth to the OSAA meet.

But he was unable to snag one of the 12 spots in the event finals, clocking a 23.29 in the preliminary round to place 16th out of 16 participants.

The OSAA state-meet record in the 50 free is 20.32. Last year’s champion, Portland-Lincoln senior Carson Brindle, won it with a 20.79.

For now, Cully said, he’s aiming for a time in the low-22s.

During the offseason, he didn’t want to burn himself out. He did weight training and cardio exercises for about two months.

“I could’ve worked a little harder,” he said. “But I’m coming in fresh.”

Cully is also entering the season with a fresh focus: the 100 free. He’d like to log a time of about 49 seconds in that event, which he said is helpful in his training for the 50 free.

“I’m going to work on my endurance more,” he said. “I think that’s going to be my golden event right there.”

On the girls side, Carson Manning provided one of Canby’s highlights. She finished the girls 200-yard freestyle race in 2 minutes 22.33 seconds, besting the 2:23.53 clocked by Grant’s runner-up.

The Cougars will take a break from competitive swimming for about three weeks. They are scheduled to host West Linn in a league meet Jan. 9.

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