It was apparent from an early day in the pool at Superior Athletic Club that there was something different about Marcus Reyes-Gentry.
The swimming phenom showed a particular penchant for long distance freestyle and the backstroke, and those skills have carried him to national notoriety as he has climbed up the age groups.
So for someone like Mike Heckert, a former head coach at Crater High and current assistant for the Comets, what Reyes-Gentry was able to pull off last week in winning two events as a freshman at the Class 5A district swim meet was not surprising.
“It was apparent back when he was 8 years old that he was going to be really skilled,” said Heckert. “He’s learned quickly and worked hard at it. He was always plenty willing to be coachable, which is a big part of success for an athlete in any sport.”
“He still has those same disciplines: He’s good about diet, good about making practice, good about taking coaching and stroke adjustments and everything you need to be really good. And he is really, really good.”
The 14-year-old Reyes-Gentry is so good, in fact, that he enters the 5A state meet as Southern Oregon’s best hope at a championship — and he may even be able to pull that off in both of his events.
All classifications convene at Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center in Beaverton this weekend, with preliminaries Friday and finals Saturday.
Reyes-Gentry boasts the top time in the state at the 5A level in the 500-yard freestyle at 4 minutes, 45.03 seconds as well as in the 100 backstroke at 52.23 seconds. The competitors closest to him are West Albany junior Dylan Hayes in the 500 free (4:56.79) and Hillsboro senior Nathan Claxton in the 100 back (54.38).
Making it more challenging is the fact that the freshman’s specialties are within about 30 minutes of each other on the race schedule, and Reyes-Gentry is the only one who will be attempting to double in those events.
“He’s first in both, and not by just a small amount,” said Heckert. “Those are big margins.”
“High school-wise,” added Heckert, “I think Marcus is poised to do something at Crater that probably you won’t see in high school sports very often, and that is an athlete who can compete in his chosen sport and win at the state level for four years in a row.”
Nationally ranked in both events, Reyes-Gentry is the product of standout training by longtime Superior Stingrays coach Siouxha Tokman and has a genuine desire to keep improving.
“He’s a real big contender in the swimming world and it’s pretty awesome to see that,” said Crater head coach Sean Pfister, who has been largely away from the program since his wife gave birth to twins in January. “Marcus just has some tremendous skill sets and a lot of that is due to when he was a younger age group swimmer, spending more time in the pool than most.”
Reyes-Gentry is among a host of local swimmers who will test their skills at the state championships this weekend, with athletes from North Medford, Crater, Ashland, Phoenix, St. Mary’s and Cascade Christian set to compete.
North Medford junior Daniel Olson will be making his third appearance at state and will compete in two individual events and as part of two Black Tornado relay teams. Olson is seeded fifth in the 50 free (21.84) and 11th in the 100 fly (53.52).
North Medford’s 200 free relay squad is seeded eighth (1:31.57) and includes William Anderson, Isaiah Ward, JD Madsen and Olson joined by alternates Emilio Bedolla, Parker Perez and Levi Buker. The Black Tornado’s 200 medley relay team enters state 14th at 1:43.11 with Perez, Anderson, Buker and Olson and includes alternates Bedolla, Madsen and Ward.
The senior Anderson also qualified in the 100 breaststroke, standing 15th in 1:01.65.
At the 5A level, Ashland junior Chris Frownfelter is in position to potentially bring home a state championship or two of his own. Frownfelter is seeded second in the 100 free (48.30) behind Springfield’s Elijah Dapkus (47.98) and third in the 100 back (54.46) behind Reyes-Gentry and Claxton.
Ashland’s Baylor Wiggins is seeded seventh in the 100 free (50.69) and 11th in the 50 free (23.35), while fellow senior Hunter Oliver is 10th in the 200 I.M. (2:08.74) and 12th in the 100 fly (58.04) and sophomore Michael Carrabba stands 11th in the 500 free (5:24.46).
Frownfelter, Wiggins and Oliver are joined by Oliver Del Rio and alternates Harry Ross, Carrabba, Griffin Bagshaw and Jacob Nowack on a 200 medley relay squad that is seeded sixth at 1:45.66.
Ashland’s 400 free relay of Ross, Oliver, Wiggins and Frownfelter — with alternates Bagshaw, Carrabba, Del Rio and Nowack — is seeded fifth at 3:24.24.
In the 5A girls meet, Ashland freshman Mary Downs is seeded 11th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:14.83.
The Class 4A/3A/2A/1A meet features several locals, with St. Mary’s senior Jasper Zhu and Cascade Christian junior Braedon Scaglione in the best positions to carry championship hopes.
Zhu is seeded third in the 50 free (22.80) as well as the 100 free (49.05), while Scaglione is the No. 3 seed in the 100 breast (1:03.75).
Scaglione is also seeded sixth in the 50 free (23.38), right behind Phoenix senior Alec Shepherd (23.24), to give Southern Oregon the potential of three state placers in one event.
Shepherd is also the No. 6 seed in the 100 free (50.17).
St. Mary’s freshman Asa Frisbee also has a shot at placing in his first state meet after being seeded fourth in the 500 free (5:10.38) and sixth in the 100 back (59.09).
St. Mary’s sophomore Ahnyka Lahmann qualified for state in a pair of individual events and is seeded ninth in the 100 fly (1:05.29) and 12th in the 200 individual medley (2:28.13), while junior teammate Ivy Frisbee is seeded eighth in the 100 back (1:05.92).
In the boys 200 free relay, St. Mary’s is seeded eighth (1:39.18) with Asa Frisbee and Zhu joined by Charlie Reade and Noah Stillwell with alternates Caleb Bingham, Isaac Chesnut, David Noble and Jacob Ford. Cascade Christian is 11th in that same race at 1:42.03 with Scaglione joined by Elijah Snyder, Will Pierson and Owen Harrington and alternate Donovan Ritchie.
The St. Mary’s boys 400 free relay team is seeded fifth at 3:37.80 and includes Asa Frisbee, Reade, Stillwell, Zhu and alternates Chesnut, Bingham, Noble and Owen Gramley.
In the girls 200 medley relay, St. Mary’s is seeded 11th (2:04.41) and features Ivy Frisbee, Lucy Gramley, Lahmann and Hailey Chang with alternates Carson Hall and Molly Hirner.