Caleb Riggs has been trying for at least two seasons to put his name on the record board at the Peninsula High School pool, and he finally achieved his goal Feb. 2.
During the Class 3A South Puget Sound League championships at Lakes High, Riggs qualified for the 100-yard breaststroke final. His preliminary swim wasn’t much to celebrate as he touched home in 1 minute, 1.02 seconds.
That’s pretty fast for any teenager, but not for Riggs, who had his sights set on the school’s record in the event. Byron Dodge swam the 100 breaststroke in 59.30 seconds in 1980.
Cue a little help from Riggs’ grandparents, who had flown in from Georgia because they won’t be able to attend this weekend’s state championships. They offered him a new iPhone if he broke Dodge’s record.
“They said that, and I don’t think they thought I’d take them seriously, so I tried for it,” Riggs said. “I knew I could, since I did it at a club meet two, three weeks before league. But I wasn’t really thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to do it right here.’ ”
Riggs recalled being pretty calm on the starting block, then he hit the water and swam the race of his life. His time of 59.24 seconds shattered Dodge’s mark by six one-hundredths of a second.
Craig Brown, who has coached Peninsula’s boys and girls swim teams for 34 seasons, said Dodge’s record was seriously threatened a few times, most recently by 2012 graduate Ethan Carlson, who finished fourth at state in the event last season, and by Michael Lee, a 2010 graduate who has the Seahawks’ record in the 100 butterfly.
“I’ve had a lot of guys come close but never go under a minute, Brown said. “Caleb is the second person ever to go under a minute in the breaststroke. Very impressive.”
For Riggs, putting his name on the school record board represents something tangible for hundreds of hours in the water, both at Peninsula High and with the Tacoma Swim Club.
“It took a lot of time, and I put a lot of time into it since last year, even freshman year,” he said.
Dodge, who set the previous record during the state meet as a senior, returned to the Peninsula pool on Thursday to congratulate Riggs. The Seahawks also took down Dodge’s name and will likely have Riggs’ name there before next season.
After he graduated from Peninsula High, Dodge went on to the University of Puget Sound and the University of Hawaii. Now he works as a flight-line mechanic at Boeing.
He was in a joking mood about having his record eclipsed.
“It’s a huge burden; I can’t take it any longer,” he said. “I’m very happy for (Caleb). It’s a lot of career – I mean, swimming takes so much time and so much dedication, and so I’m proud of him.”
Brown thinks Riggs has the ability to break the 59-second barrier at state, which will take place Friday and Saturday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
The coach said he was “taken aback” by Riggs’ performance at the SPSL meet, where he finished second in the 200 individual medley, helped the 200 free relay capture a state-qualifying time, won the breaststroke and anchored the 400 free relay for a championship.
He didn’t have much rest time between the latter three events, either.
“He has worked really hard, especially in his club, swimming year-round,” Brown said. “And that’s probably key, his club coaches and his desire to want to swim, and it’s finally happening.
“His freshman and sophomore season, I shouldn’t say he was weak and frail, but now he’s becoming a man.”Sports editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.