Alejandro Flores said he feels lighter now.
Until recently, he’d been ultra-focused on his times. And when those times weren’t as low as he hoped, frustration would wear on him.
“Last year was tough,” Flores said. “The primary thing was my college search. I had no idea where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do. … And I was even on this part of like, ‘Do I even want to keep swimming?’ I was in this rut (where I) couldn’t drop time, couldn’t get motivated.”
But after rejoining the Lake Stevens High School swim and dive team this winter and recently changing club teams, Flores said he’s rekindled his passion for the sport.
“I just feel lighter now and just better in the water in general,” he said. “Before, it was just a lot of weight and need to perform, and that’s the only thing that mattered. And now it’s, like, fun.”
Flores, an Auburn University signee who’s ranked by CollegeSwimming.com as the No. 4 overall senior recruit in the state, was a standout swimmer for the Vikings as a freshman and sophomore. He claimed three individual Class 4A state medals over the first two years of his high school career, including second-and third-place finishes in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Flores nearly captured the 100 breaststroke state crown as a sophomore, finishing just 0.05 seconds behind Jonathan Cook after the Jackson star surged in front with an incredible closing kick to claim his third consecutive state title in the event. Flores’ time in that race tied for 30th in the nation that season among all high school swimmers.
With an already-busy schedule of club swimming and college recruiting trips, Flores chose to take last season off from high school swimming.
But he returned to the Vikings this winter for his senior season, and he’s glad he did.
“I missed fighting for a team, because swimming had been very individual my sophomore and junior year,” Flores said. “I wanted to see (if) maybe that was the part that I was missing. … And so far, it’s working.”
Flores will cap his high school career at the swim and dive state championships Friday and Saturday at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
He enters the 4A state meet as the No. 3 seed in the 100 breaststroke with an All-American consideration time of 55.96 seconds, which is just 0.12 seconds away from an automatic All-American time. He also is seeded No. 4 in the 100 butterfly with a time of 51.01 seconds.
“He just has a natural feel for the water,” Lake Stevens coach Brady Dykgraaf said. “When he pulls, he sets anchors in that water and it’s just crazy to watch. And he’s had that from a really young age. That natural ability to pull water is just unique in a kid.”
Breaststroke has long been Flores’ primary stroke.
“He is the longest, strongest breaststroker in that pool every single time,” Dykgraaf said. “And that power in there is just unique. The amount of body movement he gets in that stroke is impressive. … He gets so much power out of those pulls.”
Only recently, however, has Flores also focused on the butterfly. During his first two years of high school swimming, he competed in the 200 individual medley instead.
“I really started focusing on it this high school season,” he said. “And so far, it’s been paying off.”
Flores is coming off a pair of narrow second-place finishes at last week’s 4A Northwest District meet.
Flores finished just 0.13 seconds behind Mount Vernon’s Wyatt Carlton — the 4A state No. 3 seed — in the 100 butterfly. And he finished just 0.24 seconds behind Mount Vernon’s Luke Pusateri — the 4A state No. 2 seed — in the 100 breaststroke.
“He played around with technique a little bit, worked on some different things last week, and he’s better (for it) going into next weekend,” Dykgraaf said. “And that hurts. It stinks. No one wants to get out-touched and no one wants to lose.
“But you have to be mature enough that it’s not about (last) weekend. It’s about this bigger picture, too. So I’m pretty excited to see what he does (this) weekend.”