Gregori High’s Andrew Britton became the first swimmer in Stanislaus District history to win an event at the CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships.
Britton edged friend and Ripon Aquatics teammate Ty Wells of Ripon High in the 100-yard breaststroke on Saturday, completing an unprecedented postseason for the Jaguars’ junior.
He arrived at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex seeded No. 1 in the event after beating Wells at the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships at Tokay High in Lodi.
On Friday, Wells returned the favor, posting the fastest time of the weekend in preliminaries. Wells stole the No. 1 seed with a 54.87-second finish.
However, the highest perch on the podium was reserved for Britton, who was the only swimmer in the final heat to crack 55 seconds. He touched the wall in 54.94, just ahead of Wells (55.18), the only swimmer in district history to qualify for all three state meets.
“He had a tiny bit better finish than Ty,” said Ripon High and Ripon Aquatics coach Erik Zador. “It was anyone’s game.”
Zador said both emerged from the pool looking forward to their next big meet (likely Futures Championships in August) and an opportunity to build on the high school postseason.
“Neither of them are disappointed. Of course, they want to swim faster, but that’s how competitive they are,” Zador said. “Andrew won state, but Ty has the faster time to hold over his head. After this, they’ll really push each other. I’m looking forward to the next season. It’s going to be fun.”
For the second year in a row, the Stanislaus District brought home two medals. Last spring, former Sierra High standout Scott Tolman, now a freshman at Cal Baptist, placed second in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 individual medley.
This time around, Britton and Wells pushed each other to the top of the 100 breaststroke class. The two train together with Ripon Aquatics, sharing a lane and swapping victories.
Zador said it’s been a privilege to watch Britton and Wells compete daily. Their work ethic and drive, he said, is unique.
“This year, Andrew and Ty, they took to each other and used each other the entire season. That was awesome to see,” said Zador, a four-time section champion at Stagg High in the mid-1990s, well before the CIF adopted a state championship.
“They are a very rare breed that only comes around every so often. I’m fortunate to have found these guys in the last couple of years; guys who are not only talented but want to work hard. That’s Andrew and that’s Ty. They don’t take their talent for granted. They hop out of the pool and ask, ‘What can I do, coach, to get better?’ That’s what fuels them. It makes life easy when you have two kids who want work like that.”
Wells was also 12th in the 100 butterfly, while Britton failed to qualify for the finals in the 200 individual medley.
Central Catholic freshman Malia Fernandez was 25th in the preliminaries for the 50 freestyle and did not advance.
Her place in school history was set before she stepped onto the block in Clovis. Fernandez is the first Central Catholic swimmer to reach the final at the section meet and first to advance to state.
Over the next three years, Raiders coach John Hoskins, who has trained Olympians, believes Fernandez will become the school’s first state swimming champion.
Zador isn’t ruling out another champion of his own. With two of the top swimmers in the Class of 2018 in his pool, Saturday’s history-making swims could be just a preview.
“We have great potential next year,” Zador said. “We can sustain this (success).”