Matt Bilello traveled an unusual route to a pair of record-breaking performances at the Central Section Division I Swimming and Diving Championships.
The Clovis West High senior took a three-week break from training around winter break, a time most dual aquatic-sport athletes begin to ramp up for the swimming season after completing water polo.
"I don't know if it was beneficial, but I needed it," Bilello said.
The time off didn't slow Bilello, who captured four gold medals -- all in All-American or consideration times -- at the section finals. He has been selected The Bee's Boys Swimming and Diving Player of the Year.
"I always knew he was going to swim. It was just a matter of how much he would train so he could get in peak physical shape so he could perform his best," Clovis West coach Adam Reid said. "He's one of the most talented swimmers we've ever had at Clovis West. And that says a lot because we've had a lot of really talented swimmers."
Bilello opened the D-I finals by breaking the section's 200 free record in 1:38.53, a 0.45-second improvement over the mark Stockdale's Matt Scanlan set in 2005.
"I wasn't 100% sure I could get that record," Bilello said. "There were some fast times out there. But I put my all into it."
He followed that by winning the 100 free in a consideration All-American 45.75, 0.50 seconds shy of the record set by Clovis West's Chris Rumley in 1993.
Then Bilello anchored the Golden Eagles' champion 200 free (1:25.19) and 400 free relays (3:05.17). The 200 free relay missed the section record by Clovis West in 2005 by 0.05, while the 400 free relay topped the 3:06.15 Bilello helped the Golden Eagles establish last season.
The UC Santa Barbara-bound Bilello finished his prep career with eight section gold medals -- three individually and five on relays -- and three section records. He was also part of the Golden Eagles' record-setting 200 medley relay team in 2011.
"I made a mark on Central Section history," Bilello said. "It's cool because it shows how far I've come and how good I can be in the future if I keep working at it."
Reid said the sky's the limit for Bilello, who has the body size, strength, technique, feel for the water, kick and catch to excel at the college level.
"He has so much more speed left in him," Reid said. "It's just a matter of how much he's going to want to work to pull that out of him. I'm looking forward to seeing how he develops at Santa Barbara."
School: Clovis West
He's qualified because: Captured Central Section D-I golds in the 200 free (1:38.53), 100 free (45.75), 200 free relay (1:25.19) and 400 free relay (3:05.17) -- all in All-American or consideration times. His mark in the 200 free was a section record, as was the time he helped establish in the 40 free relay. The UC Santa Barbara-bound Bilello earned eight gold medals the past three years.
Also considered: Bullard's Hanaya Brasali, a senior who won two D-I finals, the 200 individual medley (a consideration All-American 1:53.30) and 100 back (51.89).