But the senior swimmer was not about to let anything spoil his final competitive races in his home pool at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
Willis shrugged off some early sluggishness and raced to two individual victories, both in personal-best times, during Saturday's finals at the Class 3A Northwest District swimming and diving championships. The lanky Willis won the 100 butterfly in 53.86 and then came back later to win the 100 backstroke by nearly two seconds in 55.88, both automatic state-qualifying times.
"During warm-ups I wasn't really feeling that good," Willis said. "In the medley relay, my (butterfly) didn't feel the same. But then, I don't know, I guess I just did better than I expected."
Though his margin of victory was greater in the backstroke, Willis said he was more pleased with his butterfly race.
"I went 53," he explained, "and I haven't gone 53 for over a year now. So to go to that time felt good."
Willis did not taper his training or shave his body for the district meet, "and it feels good that I still had best times," he said. "And I know that once I'm shaved and tapered I can go faster next week."
"He's going to go even faster (at state)," agreed Tomahawks assistant coach Brian Tarr, a substitute for head coach Meredith Jenks, who was on a maternity absence. "These are his lifetime-best times, so I think he's just going to do absolutely phenomenal next weekend when he's properly tapered."
In the team competition, meanwhile, Shorewood won a showdown with rival Shorecrest for the district championship, its third in a row. Shorewood led early in the meet, but then Shorecrest eased in front and held off the T-birds until the 100 backstroke -- the 10th of 12 events -- when Shorewood used a 2-3-4 finish to go on top to stay.
The T-birds led by 28 points heading into the final race, the 400 freestyle relay, and with a place in the six-team final heat Shorewood's victory was assured, despite a win by Shorecrest in the finale. Shorewood finished with a 529-511 margin over the Scots.
The outcome was a surprise for T-birds coach Scott Kelley, who was expecting a narrow margin. "It's pretty easy as a coach to score out the meet from prelims and to see where you stand," Kelley said. "And when I scored out the meet, there was about a two-point difference by my math. So I was expecting it to go right down to the end."
To clinch the championship before the final relay "was a bit of a surprise, yeah," he said.
The T-birds won only the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays, and had only three runner-up finishes -- Andrew Garrison in the 50 freestyle, Tore Landboe in the 500 freestyle, and Davis Harford in the 100 backstroke -- but placed first on the strength of their depth.
"The guys just stepped up and took first place," Kelley said. "It was really neat to see them push for it and kind of work together as a team."
Shorewood and Shorecrest were the class of the district this season, and the rivalry between the two teams "has gotten a lot bigger this year," Kelley said. "But both teams are very cordial. There's no animosity. We obviously want to beat the rivals on the other side (of the district), but they're both just great groups of kids.
"It's been really fun to see both teams push each other to great heights this year," he added.
Shorecrest, meanwhile, won the final relay, and had a pair of double winners in Carter Osborne (200 freestyle, 100 freestyle) and Grant Heisey (200 individual medley, 500 freestyle). Heisey, a freshman, was the sole individual winner who was not a senior or junior.
One of the meet's most dominating performances was turned in by Shorecrest diver Aaron Moss, who won his event by a whopping 152,05 points. His final score of 513.85 was an All-American consideration total.
At Marysville Pilchuck H.S.
Team scores: Shorewood (SW) 529, Shorecrest (SC) 511, Oak Harbor (OH) 324, Stanwood (ST) 237, Glacier Peak (GP) 210.5, Marysville Getchell (MG) 170, Marysville Pilchuck (MP) 124, Meadowdale (MEAD) 124, Mountlake Terrace (MT), 119, Everett (E) 87, Ferndale (F) 36.
200 medley relay--1. Shorewood (Davis Harford, Torrey Morales, Gonalo Jeronimo, Adam Hill) 1:41.32*, 2. Oak Harbor (Toren Wood, Josh Jepsen, Caley Powers, Kevin Levy) 1:42.82*, 3. Shorecrest (Grant heisey, Ethan Hausman, Aaron Zevenbergen, Brian Okazaki) 1:47.48; 200 freestyle--1. Carter Osborne (SC) 1:47.60*, 2. Chris Flynn (MEAD) 1:49.28*, 3. Tore Landboe (SW) 1:52.55; 200 individual medley--1. Grant Heisey (SC) 2:00.29*, 2. Kyle Crhistenson (GP) 2:05.58, 3. Anders Blomso (SW) 2:07.78; 50 freestyle--1. David Escobar (ST) 21.87*, 2. Andrew Garrison (SW) 22.51*, 3. Kevin Levy (OH) 22.58*; Diving--1. Aaron Moss (SC) 513.85, 2. Taner Husby (MP) 361.80, 3. Dominique Gray (MG) 32.80; 100 butterfly--1. Colin Willis (MP) 53.86*, 2. Caley Powers (OH) 54.64*, 3. Chris Flynn (MEAD) 54.85*; 100 freestyle--1. Carter Osborne (SC) 48.43*, 2. David Escobar (ST) 48.66*, 3. Andrew Garrison (SW) 49.66*; 500 freestyle--1. Grant Heisey (SC) 4:44.00*, 2. Tore Landboe (SW) 5:06.59, 3. Arne Landboe (SW) 5:19.29; 200 freestyle relay--1. Shorewood (Torrey Morales, Adam Hill, Galen Kintner, Andrew Garrison) 1:39.97*, 2. Shorecrest (Carter Osborne, Brian Okazaki, Russel Groves, Axel Wickstrom) 1:30.12*, 3(T). Oak Harbor (Josh Jepsen, Jerik Bainco, Caley Powers, Kevin Levy) 1:31.98*, 3(T). Stanwood (Kevin Escobar, Tanner DesJardins, Jacob Land, David Escobar) 1:31.98*; 100 backstroke--1. Colin Willis (MP) 55.88*, 2. Davis Harford (SW) 57.66, 3. Jonah Hoverson (SW) 58.44; 100 breaststroke--1. Josh Jepsen (OH) 1:02.56*, 2. Kyle Christenson (GP) 1:04.15, 3. Torrey Morales (SW) 1:05.08; 400 freestyle relay--1. Shorecrest (Grant Heisey, Russel Groves, Axel Wickstrom, Carter Osborne) 3:18.51*, 2. Oak Harbor (Kevin levy, Caley Powers, Jerik Bainco, Josh Jepsen) 3:22.28*, 3. Stanwood (Kevin Escobar, Tanner DesJardins, Jacob Land, David Escobar) 3:24.69*, 4. Shorewood (Anders Blomso, Tore Landboe, Jonah Hoverson, Galen Kintner) 3:25.70*.
*Denotes 3A state qualifying time
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