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Russell-Cheung lead Raiders to region title
It was no surprise to Cibola swim coach Richard McClure that Andrew Russell-Cheung won a region title this season, just surprising that it was in the 200-yard freestyle.
Cibola's Russell-Cheung, a veteran breaststroke swimmer, won the region title in the 100-yard breastsroke, the 200 free and was a member of the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relay teams.
For his accomplishments, Russell-Cheung was named the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club 2009 All-Region Boys Swimmer of the Year.
"Andrew is just a very strong all around swimmer," McClure said. "He can swim any event at any meet."
That's part of the reason that McClure looked for a second event that Russell-Cheung could compete in. Hoping to keep his star swimmer abreast of his competition, without sinking his chances in his primary event, McClure looked at the 200 free.
"Outside of (the breaststroke), the 200 free was the best event for him to swim for the team," McClure said. "One of the philosophies of the program is that every kids swims every event they're capable of swimming once during the year ... I know he isn't too keen on the 200 free, but he was region champ, so he wasn't too unhappy with that."
It appeared early in the season that Russell-Cheung was on his way to a season that may culminate in a state title. Expectations were high after his finish at the Nike Invitational where he finished the 100 breast in second place with a time of 1 minute 2.57 seconds. It was a personal best.
But instead of continuing to drop in time, he was unable to capitalize on the performance.
"I think I peaked a lot earlier," Russell-Cheung said. "(The season) didn't end with the times as fast as I wanted to. But our team did good."
That may be attributed to three weeks in which he was out of the pool. Almost immediately after his performance at the Nike Invite, Russell-Cheung came down with an illness that kept him out of the pool for a week, McClure said.
Then, after a death in the family, Russell-Cheung left the country to be with loved ones. He was absent of Cibola's swimming program for nearly three weeks leading up to regionals.
That didn't stop him from setting the Gila Valley Region record for the 100-breast, which he clocked at 1:03.65. With two more seasons left at Cibola, McClure said he expects to see Russell-Cheung break his own record and many others.
"I don't think there's any question about that," McClure said. "He's going to go well under a minute in the breaststroke."
Russell-Cheung said that he cares less about his personal accolades and that his goal is for the Raiders to have a successful season in the pool next year.
"I hope we can do it (win region) again next year," Russell-Cheung said. "I think last year was our best year, but I think we can still win region next season."