O'Leary caps career with two titles

Published on November 9th, 2010 9:14 am


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The best male swimmer in the history of Seward High School finally bagged the elephant.

Ryan O'Leary collected the first two state titles of his remarkable, record-breaking career Saturday at the ASAA state championships in Anchorage.

The all-state senior won the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle races in a field against the fastest swimmers in Alaska. Yet even against the best, the 6-foot-3 O'Leary was head and shoulders above the rest.

That's why he was voted Alaska Swimmer of the Year after the meet.

"I wanted to win two races in the worst way," O'Leary said. "It's pretty awesome. It was quite the way to end my high school career."

He won the 50 free with a smoking time of 21.31 seconds, although it wasn't his best. He was about a tenth-of-a-second off his school record.

"The 50 free is all about perfection," he said. "One mess up can cost you a lot."

It wasn't his finest performance.

That came an hour later.

O'Leary delivered his second state title by winning the 100 free in personal-best 46.45, only .18 seconds off the state mark set in 1998 by Derek Gibb of Petersburg.

He said a slight mistake cost him the all-time mark.

"I was kind of disappointed because I was so close to the state record," he said. "I botched my turn so badly it wasn't even funny, so I know that if I had just nailed that turn I would have had it."

Still, you can't take the shine off O'Leary's sparking showing.

He already holds virtually every swimming record at Seward, so it figures he should join Jacqueline Vandriessche as the school's only state champions.

It's even more impressive when you consider that swimming is the only sport in Alaska that throws everybody into the same pot, unlike other sports that are split into classification based on enrollment.

That meant O'Leary swam against 4A kids from schools five times the size of Seward.

Last year, he placed second in both the 50 and 100 free.

This year he won two sprints and teamed with Nick Broughton, Josh Eavis and Jayna O'Leary to place fourth in the 200 free relay.

"That's the first time Seward has ever taken a relay to state," O'Leary said. "And we managed to beat Dimond, somehow, and Dimond won the meet overall for guys, and so we were all pretty stoked about that. It was awesome."

The Seward boys finished seventh in the team standings with 32 points, one shy of sixth place. The green and gold swimmers were Ryan O'Leary, Nick Broughton, Josh Eavis, Jayna O'Leary and Sam Werner.

Broughton made the 50 free finals and finished fifth in 22.81.

On the girls side, Eileen Audette, Izzy Barnwell and the 200 free relay team represented Seward on the big stage.

Audette, making her second straight appearance at state, qualified for the 100 breast stroke finals and ended up sixth in 1:09.79.

The spotlight might have been on O'Leary, but he said he couldn't have done it without his coaches and teammates.

"This is definitely the year for Seward High School swimming," he said. "I don't think I have ever been so proud of all these people."

Van Williams can be reached at vwilliams@alaskanewspapers.com

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