CNMI swimmer Kai Staal led Ashland High School to a first place finish in the 400yard freestyle relay race in last weekend’s 2012 OSAA (Oregon School Activities Association) Swimming State Championships Class 5A in Oregon.
Staal was the finisher for the Grizzlies, touching the wall at the Mt. Hood Community College pool at the 3:17.09 mark to pull off an upset over rival and the favored Summit High School. The CNMI swimmer, who won multiple gold medals for the Commonwealth during the 2010 Micronesian Games in Palau, timed in at 46.03 seconds in the last 100y of the relay race and was the fastest on the team. Staal joined forces with anchor Gus Simms (50.56 seconds), Massie Parker (49.90 seconds), and Forrest Kollar (50.60 seconds).
Staal’s time in the 100y split broke the Ashland record (46.54 seconds) Brad Scoles made in 2000. He also recorded the second fastest time in the field of 24 swimmers behind the 45.63 of 100y freestyle champion and Summit’s Tommy Brewer. Staal’s relay team also shattered the school’s 400y relay record (3:21.98), which Scoles, Jan Smigiel, Dustin Asher, and Adam Foley created 13 years ago.
Staal and company completed the last race of the day in style, battling and beating Summit in a down to the wire finish, according to a story from Ashland Daily Tidings published on Feb. 20.
Ashland was behind after the first 100y race, timing in at 50.56 seconds against Springfield (48.32 seconds) and Pendleton (50.10 seconds). Parker swam next for the Grizzlies and stole the lead, which third swimmer Kollar kept. After Kollar’s 100y split, Ashlands’ time read at 2:31.06 and according to Ashland Daily Tidings’s story, the Grizzlies had only an arm’s length lead over second-place Pendleton, while Summit was lurking in third with the state champion Brewer out to challenge Staal for the neck-and-neck finish.
“In his first 50 yards, Staal steadily increased his lead over Pendleton anchor Nolan Hill, but Brewer quickly narrowed the gap and appeared to be within striking distance as the two made their final turn and headed down the final 25 yards. Staal didn’t let up. He used a huge push off the wall to increase his lead, then seemed to somehow speed up over the final 15 yards before touching the wall about a body length ahead of Brewer,” Joe Zavala reported in his story for Ashland Daily Tidings.
The next moment had Staal and company celebrating the big finish, as Grizzlies managed to avenge their loss to Summit in the district meet.
Besides the 400y free style race, Staal also swam in the 50y freestyle and 100y breaststroke and finished second in both events. The Tsunami Saipan swimmer timed in at 21.55 seconds in the 50y freestyle against the 21.09 seconds of Brewer and 1:00.13 in the 100y breaststroke, surpassing the school record of 1:02.66 Tiago Reis posted in 1986.
With his strong showing in last weekend’s tournament, Staal qualified for the Senior State Championships next month.
“Congratulations to Kai. We are so proud of him,” Tsunami Saipan coach Hiro Kimura said.