He's qualified because: Captured Central Section titles in 200 free (1:41.04, 100th-fastest nationally) and 500 free (4:31.77, 51st) and as part of Golden Eagles' 200 medley (1:36.32, 77th) and 400 free (3:09.37, 70th) relay teams. Has top-3 finishes at section finals in first three varsity seasons.
He said it: "He's going to swim in college, there's no doubt. In college, if you're not 6-3, 6-4, you are going to have a hard time competing against the sprinters. When you see Cary in college, he'll do the longer, tougher swims and will compete very well at that level. That's where the training, heart and effort take the forefront." – Clovis West coach Steve Baxter
The first time Cary Wright stepped on the starting blocks as a club swimmer – about to dive into the pool for a 25-yard freestyle race – the then 8-year-old surveyed the field and made the following assessment.
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"I said, 'I am going to be better than all these other kids.' I've always been real competitive. It makes it more fun that way."
Since then, Wright's competitive fire has helped him blossom into one of the best high school swimmers in the Central Section.
The Clovis West High junior won twice individually and two more times as part of relays at the May 22 section finals – the largest collection of gold medals for any swimmer in the field – to earn the nod as The Bee's Boys Swimming and Diving Athlete of the Year.
"Cary Wright hates to lose, that's the bottom line. He is in every single race," Golden Eagles coach Steve Baxter said. "When it comes time to swim fast, he swims fast, and it doesn't have to be at a big meet. He's always on it. I've never seen him dog an event in three years. We can be up by 80 points and he will still have an outstanding performance because he wants to race."
At 5-foot-9, Wright doesn't possess the body frame conducive to a long-term future as a sprinter, where the best of the college ranks generally stand well more than 6 feet.
So he has focused on – and excelled at – the distance events.
A year after placing third and second in his signature races – the 200 free and 500 free – Wright owned them this time around.
Wright was nearly a second faster to the wall than second-place Chase Lemley of Clovis while swimming the nation's 100th-fastest time (1:41.04) in the 200 free.
He was even more dominant in the 500, as his national 51st-best mark of 4:31.77 was more than 10 seconds better than second-place finisher and teammate Tommy Allen.
Wright also swam the butterfly leg of the nation's 77th-fastest 200 medley relay (1:36.32) and the final leg of the nation's 70th-best 400 free relay (3:09.41).
"Size is not the most important thing," Baxter said of distance swimming. "It's how hard you train. And [Wright] works so hard that he maximizes his ability. There's been a tremendous amount of improvement in him, and I think he's just scratched the surface."
Baxter said he has no doubt Wright will follow in the footsteps of former teammates and now departed seniors Jacob McGough, Tristin Baxter and Mariah Tharp, who have signed to swim for Division I colleges next season.
But getting to the D-I level – where Wright hopes to compete in the 500 free and 1,650 free – is a tedious journey that requires Wright to routinely swim 3,000- to 5,000-meter sets during practice.
"Sometimes, you've just got to sing a song or close your eyes, whatever to forget about how long it is and just focus on what you're doing," Wright said. "At first, I hated it, and sometimes I still do when it's super long. But it's what I'm good at, so I do it. And it can be fun."