FRESNO - Nathan Roodzant knew what predicament he put himself in and he was fine with the situation and outcome.
On Friday in the preliminary heat at the Central Section Swimming Championships, the Bakersfield Christian senior seemingly averted disaster, leaving himself in lane 8 in the finals of the boys 200-yard individual medley on Saturday at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex in Fresno.
Not being in the frey and in the far outside lane left some doubt where Roodzant was in the finals throughout the race, but near the end, he knew he accomplished exactly what he came out to do.
Roodzant finished second overall in the finals in a time of 1 minute, 53.89 seconds. The top-two finishers in each race automatically qualify for the CIF State Championships next weekend back at Clovis West.
“This was huge. I knew I had to come in and stay in front of my seventh-lane guy because I wanted to see the middle of the pack,” Roodzant said. “I knew that if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have a good swim. That was my goal for this race.”
Roodzant said on Friday he was just concerned with winning his heat and prepping for the finals, but knew that Lane 8 isn’t always the easiest route to take in the finals.
“Lane 8 can sometimes be overlooked,” Roodzant said. “Which is why I wanted to do so well (on Saturday) to show these guys that I can hang with them even though I am D-II."
This is the first year the section has combined both the Division I and D-II championships at one site, allowing swimmers like Roodzant to compete against the best in the section.
It’s also a tougher field to secure one of the two automatic state bids with the new schools from the Central Coast competing for the first time.
This is the second time in as many years Roodzant qualifies for state. In 2018 he qualified in the 100 backstroke, a race that he finished third in on Saturday in the finals. Roodzant won the D-II title in both races on Saturday.
Taber shines, advances to state
Independence freshman Paige Taber has been breaking records for the 10-year old program all season. Now she has the pleasure of calling herself the first Falcons to advance to state, for boys or girls.
Taber, who battled an ankle injury through the first two months of the season, finishing third overall in the girls 100 freestyle and had the top time for a D-II swimmer in 51.58 seconds. Despite finishing just outside the top-two, her time was .15 of a second faster than the automatic qualifying time for state.
“Coming in today in third was remarkable. I was stoked. Speechless,” Taber said. “I know most people’s goal is to get second or first. But for me, I am also a winner because I am going to state.”
Taber also becomes just the second freshman to go to state after former Frontier standout and current UC Santa Barbara freshman Kassidy Lemminn advanced in the first state championships in 2015.
“This shows me that anything is possible,” Taber said. “If I can dream it, I can sure do it.”
Roodzant and Taber aren’t alone heading to state.
Centennial senior Alex Castro, like Taber, missed out on a top-two finish, but his personal-best time of 20.99 in the boys 50 free is a state automatic time.
“This is what I was shooting for,” Castro said. “It’s pretty exciting. I am really excited that I am going to state.”
Liberty junior Slaytynn Simpson finished second in the girls 100 fly in 56.94 and is state-bound for the second consecutive season.
Tough day for Liberty girls relays
The day did not start off the way Liberty coach Marc Urmston needed. The Patriots girls team was expected to contend for a top-two finish over all in team scoring, but were dealt a major blow when the girls 200 medley relay team.
Despite finishing second in the race, they were disqualified for an exchange infraction.
“The judges showed that there was an infraction between the back and breast exchange,” Urmston said.
Then in the 200 free relay, the block slipped behind the foot of sophomore Emma McMurray to begin the race.
The Patriots were the second-seed coming into the finals but were not able to regroup enough for a top-two finish. The Patriots landed third in 1:39.40, less than a second behind Clovis-Buchanan.
“They are all pretty resilient,” Urmston said. “They know things like this happen in life. This is a good lesson for them.”
A large majority of swimmers on the relay teams for Liberty are underclassmen with juniors Simpson, Payton Lewis and sophomore Slaytynn Simpson set to return for the 200 IM as will Joselle Sortijas return for the 200 free relay team next season.
“You can bet this won’t happen again,” Urmston said. “You won’t see them jump again or not check their blocks. These girls are great teammates. Hopefully they learn from it and return next season even stronger.”