Turns out Justin Wright's performance at the Central Section Division I Swimming and Diving Championships — which produced three gold medals and one silver — was merely a warm-up.
The Clovis West High junior would spring from the central San Joaquin Valley's grandest prep stage and land squarely on the international map two weeks later at the Santa Clara Grand Prix.
It was there that Wright won the 200 butterfly in 1:57.90 — the fastest time recorded in the nation this season and the second fastest ever swum by an American in the 15-16 age division behind only 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, arguably the greatest swimmer ever.
The 200 fly field included Tyler Clary, who finished fifth in the event at the 2012 Olympics while also capturing gold in the 200 breaststroke.
"Anytime you're beating an Olympic gold medalist at 16 years old, it definitely shows his capabilities for the future," Clovis West coach Adam Reid said. "It's real bright."
Wright tuned up for the Grand Prix with a dominating day at the section D-I finals on May 18 at Bakersfield College.
The Bee's Boys Swimmer of the Year began his day by winning the 200 free in an automatic All-American 1:38.95, which was 4 seconds faster than his previous best.
Then it was on to the 100 fly, where he broke the 8-year-old section record of 49.0 by Stockdale's Matt Scanlan with a 48.83, also good for All-American status.
Wright followed that by anchoring the champion 400 relay team, which swam an All-American consideration 3:09.27, and second-place 200 free relay team, which clocked a consideration 1:26.40, as the Golden Eagles held off a challenge from rival Clovis (408-368.5) to capture their 15th consecutive section team title.
"It was a really, really incredible season," Wright said. "I did more than I expected to and the team did more than I expected. It was a pleasant surprise.
"I really specialized in (the 100 fly), so to improve in the (200 free), too, was a nice thing."
The younger brother of former Bee Swimmer of the Year Cary Wright (2010 and 2011) broke onto the section scene as a freshman by winning the 100 fly in 50.55 seconds at the D-I finals.
He improved on that mark as a sophomore, winning with an All-American 49.74 while setting his sights on the section record.
To close the gap on Scanlan's mark, Wright worked in the past year on his underwaters, where a swimmer uses dolphin kicks to power out of the turns.
"I think that's why we saw his time drop and the record fall," Reid said. "His underwaters were much better than last year."
Moving forward, Wright, who will be one of the most coveted college recruits in the coming months, is aiming to swim the 100 fly in less than 48 seconds.
"I want to be a whole lot faster," Wright said. "Looking at what people around the country are going, I have to be faster if I want to move forward in college.
"There's a lot of things I'll have to do to get there, but if I stay on track, I think I can do it."
Swimmer of the Year: Justin Wright
School: Clovis West
He's qualified because: Broke Central Section record while winning D-I 100 butterfly for third straight season in automatic All-American time of 48.83 seconds, highlighting a three-gold, one-silver day. Also won 200 free in All-American 1:38.95 and anchored champion 400 free relay in an All-American consideration 3:09.27 and second-place 200 free relay in a consideration 1:26.40.
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