Nothing about Justin Wright's walk-up to last week's California/Nevada vs. Japan 18-Under All-Star swimming meet suggested he was poised to record a world-class time.
Wright was still in training mode, wasn't working on full rest as he headed to Japan and hadn't even done a complete shave as he normally would before a big meet.
That didn't stop the Clovis West High senior from clocking a time of 1:57.2 in the 200-meter butterfly -- fastest for an 18-and-younger swimmer in the U.S. this season, fifth-best among all U.S. swimmers, eighth-best in the world for 18U and 67th fastest in the world overall.
"It was totally unexpected," he said. "It was just one of those days where the whole swim went perfect and it ended up being really fast. I was just trying to do my best and it worked out."
"The race was incredible. To internationally travel and swim against some of Japan's best 18-and-unders was an awesome opportunity."
It was just the latest achievement for Wright, an Arizona recruit who posted the second-fastest 200 fly ever for an American in the 15-16 age division (behind 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps) at the Santa Clara Grand Prix last spring.
He also was a member of the U.S. FINA World Cup trip roster, one of 19 swimmers from across the country chosen to compete in Tokyo (Nov. 9-10) and Beijing (Nov. 13-14).
"I try to keep it in perspective," Wright said. "There are still plenty of people better than me. I'm just trying to be the best I can, keep my goals in sight and improve as much as I can."
Wright, done with big national and international meets until the summer, is turning his focus toward the high school season, which begins March 7 when Clovis West hosts Garces and Kingsburg.
Many of the nation's elite teen swimmers forgo high school swimming, but Wright is looking forward to helping the Golden Eagles pursue a 16th straight section boys title.
Wright plans to swim his signature 100 fly (in which he set the section record last season) and whatever other individual and relay events that Clovis West coach Adam Reid decides will best help the team.
Last season, Wright won the 200 free, anchored the winning 400 free relay and was on the second-place 200 free relay. His three-year career includes seven gold, two silver and two fourths at the section finals.
"I've always felt strongly that I want to be on the team," Wright said. "It's a wonderful program and I absolutely love my team. It's a blast to hang around them."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6103, firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 441-6103.