FEDERAL WAY — All season, Peninsula High’s Caleb Riggs had smashed his competition in the 100-yard breaststroke. At the Class 3A state championships, though, he finally met someone who could counterpunch.
During the two-day meet at the King County Aquatic Center, Riggs waged a terrific duel with Liberty senior Raymond Ha. In Friday’s preliminary heats, Riggs finished in 58.67 seconds, only to be surpassed by Ha’s 58.59.
When they went head-to-head in Saturday’s championship final, Ha again got the best of Riggs, leading from start to finish to capture the title in 57.79.
Riggs’ runner-up time of 58.08 set a school record for the third time in two weeks. He and Seahawks coach Craig Brown said three things proved costly in his quest for the program’s first individual state title since 2010 — a slow first stroke, finishing with his hands apart, and a slow reaction time out of the blocks.
“I wasn’t ready,” Riggs admitted. “They did (the start) kind of fast — ‘Take your mark, go,’ — and I was like, ‘Oh.’”
Peninsula’s last state titles came three seasons ago when Aki McFarland won the 50 free and 100 backstroke.
Riggs was shooting for a mark under 58 seconds, but he didn’t have many complaints after a solid meet. He also earned a medal with his sixth-place finish in the 200 individual medley, and, with his work on the 200 freestyle relay team, he was responsible for 42 of Peninsula’s 75 points as it matched its 12th-place team finish of 2012.
“I wanted a 57, but I’m happy with what I went,” he said. “And I have a club meet in four weeks, so I’m going to try to get my 57 in.”
Riggs stood fifth after the 200 IM prelims, but he finished sixth in the final even though he dropped nearly a second to finish in 1:56.72. His friend, Abraham Devine of Lakeside (Seattle), passed Riggs when he dropped nearly eight seconds to finish second in an All-America time of 1:50.92.
“It was a good race — I was just kind of expecting to go the same that I did in prelims,” Riggs said. “I would be a lot faster if I could work on my backstroke.”
Lakeside repeated as state champion, outlasting Mercer Island 274-271. Bellevue (248) and Kennedy (181) also won trophies.
The Seahawks’ only other medal winner was sophomore Paul Friedman, who scored 350.15 points and placed third in the 1-meter diving competition. He improved on his eighth-place finish as a freshman.
“I’m really excited about this,” he said. “It was a great meet.”
Friedman felt his front-takeoff dives were unusually strong, and he said it’s clear what’s keeping him from being as good as champion Brian Donohue of Kennedy or runner-up Aaron Moss of Shorecrest.
“They’re just great divers,” Friedman said. “Aaron has a background like I do — he’s a gymnast and all that. He just does a lot harder dives than I do, and I need to get along his lines of doing the harder dives, get a lot cleaner, and work on a lot more things.”
Friedman said he’ll continue working with Peninsula School District diving coach Liz Litsch during the offseason, and he plans to turn his feet-first dives into head-first dives that will score more points.
“She was really proud that I got third,” Friedman said.
Peninsula sent three athletes to the diving competition, and that accounted for 18 points in the team’s total. Sophomore Gideon Olson finished 15th (246.85) and senior Ryan Shirly was 17th (179.75). Both were first-timers at state.
Olson didn’t earn an automatic qualification, but he got a wild-card spot based on his point totals from qualifying meets.
“It was ridiculous — I was so happy,” Olson said. “When I got the call from my coach and she said, ‘You made it to state,’ I was just like, ‘Oh my God.’ ”
Olson said his back-facing dives were strong, and he’s looking for more consistency with front-facing dives. He’s only been diving for two seasons, so his knowledge of the sport is still growing.
“It just shows that I know how to do the dives better ... what the scores look like and what good dives look like,” he said of placing inside the top 16.
Senior Matt Burkey made his final trip to state for the Seahawks. He qualified for the consolation final in the 100 freestyle, and he finished 14th in 49.03 seconds. He failed to advance in the 50 free, placing 17th in 22.25.
Alex Wenman, a junior, made his third state appearance in as many seasons, but he didn’t advance in the 200 free (20th in 1:53.16).
Peninsula’s 200 free relay team of Donovan Cummings, Casey Cooper, Wenman and Burkey finished 11th (1:31.65). In the 400 free relay, Burkey, Travis Brunson, Wenman and Riggs placed 11th (3:21.95).Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.