6A state championships — Craig Beecher swims to a pair of fifth-place finishes, but sluggish performances on Friday sink the Tiger relays

GRESHAM — This weekend’s OSAA 6A boys state swimming championships simply didn’t unfold in the way Newberg had envisioned, especially considering the Tigers had been working for the past two years in order to shine on the big stage.

After performing so well a week ago in placing second at the Pacific Conference district meet, Friday’s preliminaries were a surprising struggle for the Tigers, who added time and dropped spots in all three of their relays. by: SETH GORDON - Splash - Corbin Day thrashes his way across the pool as part of Newberg's 400 freestyle relay team Saturday at the OSAA 6A state finals at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. The Tigers placed eighth.

Craig Beecher provided most of the bright spots, earning fifth-place finishes in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke for Newberg, which felt it had a chance to make a run at the top five, but finished 11th with 52 points.

Beecher set personal best Friday to qualify third in both of races. The junior dropped a bit more time Saturday, but the field caught up to him to relegate him to fifth both times.

The 50 freestyle was an especially close and exciting race, but Beecher got the short end of the stick, touching in 21.87, just 0.01 behind Braden Esping of Sunset and 0.02 back of Lucky Le of David Douglas.

Beecher had been gunning for the school record in the 100 breaststroke and nearly got there, coming up 0.07 short of equaling it with a time of 59.29.

“It sucks that I got that close, but it is good motivation for next year,” Beecher said.

It was a somewhat sour finish to the careers of seniors Corbin Day, Bjorn Larsen and Spencer McMaster, who have been key contributors for the majority of their high school careers.

“There were some goals set that they didn’t meet and they’re pretty disappointed about it,” head coach George Sampson said. “As a coach, I’m questioning some of the things I did in the last week as to whether I rested them too early. That’s part of the coaching.”

The Tigers were seeded seventh in the 200 medley relay, sixth in the 200 free relay and fifth in the 400 free relay, but none advanced to finals, slipping to eighth, seventh and ninth, respectively.

On Saturday, David Flores-Juarez, Beecher, Larsen and Day held on to eighth after finishing in 1:40.92, while the 200 free relay team of Larsen, Seth Miller, McMaster and Day fell to ninth (1:31.84).

In the final race of the meet, Larsen, McMaster, Day and Beecher finished strong, regaining one spot to place eight in 3:17.98.

“They really stepped up the last race,” Sampson said. “That was their best time all year long, so they closed it out strong.”

Individually, Day finished in 49.49 to place 11th after setting a new PR on Friday with a 49.05 in the prelims, while Larsen was 11th in the 100 butterfly (54.92).

Of all the struggles Friday, those of Flores-Juarez were the most puzzling. The junior was seeded eighth in a tight pack of swimmers, but added nearly 10 seconds to his scorching personal-best time from districts to place 13th in 5:02.03.

“Being a junior, Craig has another shot at this meet, as does, David,” Sampson said. “We’re going to reload and see what we come back with next year.”

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