LaFlamme a touch late in 100 fly, wins 200 free

LODI -- David LaFlamme's final official act of his brilliant high school swimming career was a handshake. The heartbreaking body language said it all.

"It was a good race. I'm not complaining about that," he said. "I wanted to win that record, but what can you do?"

What LaFlamme, Beyer High's machine in the water, did was congratulate Granite Bay senior Spencer Hamby, who out-touched him in the finals of the 100-yard butterfly.

That's how LaFlamme ended his high school career -- one of best ever recorded by a male Modesto swimmer -- Saturday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Swimming Championships at Tokay High.

Earlier in the day, he boatraced the field in the 200 freestyle in a performance so dominant it stunned longtime swimming observers. Another surprise was Downey senior R.J. Barton's come-from-behind victory in the 200 individual medley for a bookend to his section title in the 100 free last year.

But LaFlamme, bound for Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, sought to repeat his free-fly double of 2008. His foil turned out to be a familiar face -- Hamby, who edged him in the same section final two years ago.

They once again powered side-by-side, neither one ahead of the other by more than an arm's length. Hamby inched in front on the final turn, however, and held on to win by only four-hundredths of a second.

"Less than a blink of an eye," LaFlamme said.

The finish reminded some of Michael Phelps' butterfly win -- by one-hundredth of a second -- over Serbian-American Milorad Cavic at the Beijing Olympics. LaFlamme, like Cavic, thought he should have thrown in another stroke rather than slightly glide to the wall.

The scoreboard provided a little relief. Both the winner and runner-up shattered the section record with Hamby's 48.16 bettering LaFlamme's 48.20.

The fast time made LaFlamme a Prep All-American twice in the same day after his stirring 1:38.04 in the 200 free. The runner-up splashed three seconds in his wake.

"I went out really hard, but my legs got tired at the end," he said. "I can't complain about that. I can't really complain about the fly either. That was my best by a second. I just wanted that record."

Barton, who will continue his swim career at the University of the Pacific, found success at Downey after surgery for a blood clot near his right shoulder two years ago. He wears the scar like a badge, a reminder that he's a lucky young man.

There was no luck involved, however, in his IM victory. Barton's split in the breaststroke portion was second-fastest during the trials, and No. 1 had been disqualified.

So he re-wired his strategy for the final -- stay close early, whip everyone in the breast and hang on in the closing down-and-back in the free.

Sure enough, Barton burst from a four-way logjam in the breast and churned home in 1:53.29.

"I felt my win last year was a fluke. The times were slow," he said. "I thought I really deserved this one."

Another fast finisher was Downey senior Kassy Bispo. Headed to Brigham Young this fall, Bispo lowered her personal record to capture third in the 100 breast. She placed fifth in the section the previous three years.

Johansen junior Brooke Fuller also was satisfied with her fourth in the 100 free and fifth in the 200 free, both in personal bests.

For LaFlamme, his farewell day was filled with both celebration and disappointment. He barely missed his double, and the sting was too fresh. Of his career, he concluded, "It wasn't too bad."

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