LODI -- Brooke Fuller appeared as much relieved as happy that she fought through the final day of her high school swimming career.
Here she was, a Johansen High senior just hoping to finish strong at the Sac-Joaquin Section Swimming Championships. It seemed well within her reach until she was knocked off course Friday by a 100-degree fever.
"I'm not going to focus on being sick," vowed Fuller, who admitted she wasn't 100 percent on the season's biggest day. "I'm just going to do the best I can. I'm very proud to be here."
She showed her pride by two third-place finishes in the 100 and 200 freestyles and became the only Stanislaus District athlete to medal (top three) Saturday at the packed Tokay High aquatics center.
Last year, Fuller placed fourth in the 100 free and fifth in the 200 free, so she did the math and liked her improvement. She'll carry some personal satisfaction this fall to Fresno State.
"It's nice to leave my senior sections with two third places," she said. "The sickness had an effect, but not really because I was still extremely happy with how I did."
Fuller also joined teammates Taylor Hanson, Hillary Niel and Kaysie Lewis to break a 3-year-old school record in the 200 freestyle relay. They were timed in 1 minute, 43.23 seconds, while finishing second in the consolation finals. That's more than 3½ seconds faster than their swim Thursday.
The section finals draw a fascinating crowd each year to Tokay. Fans, friends and even mom and dad carry lawn chairs to the edge of the deck and scream encouragement from barely a few feet away as the swimmers make their turns.
Downey senior Tim Richard, long and lean and bound for Modesto Junior College, hoped for better results in that pressurized setting. Instead, he settled for fourths in the 100 free and the 100 breast, twice finishing behind winner Trevor Allen of Davis-Yolo.
Richard's 46.48 in the free lagged behind his heat time of 46.12. In the breaststroke, he out-touched Allen in the heat and liked his chances in the final.
Instead, Allen, who will play water polo next season for UC Davis, left everyone in his wake with a near-meet record 55.84. Richard matched his heat time of 58.17.
"I had a couple of bad turns in the freestyle but I can't complain," Richard said. I was thinking, 'This should be a good race tomorrow (in the breaststroke),' and he blew me out of the water. He made me look slow."
In the girls 100 breaststroke, Stephanie Young of Pitman, who's committed to South Dakota State, took fourth (she was sixth last year). Sierra junior Kara Hall placed fifth in the same race.
Atwater senior Terrance Coughran, whose fifth in the 200 free was his best performance, didn't need medals for success. He set three school records, and his 1:43.28 in the 200 free replaces the record set by Chris Carillo in 1984.
"That's the perfect way to bow out," said Coughran, who goes on to Gannon University in Erie, Pa. "I saved everything for this meet."
The day didn't play out quite right, however, for Hanson, the Johansen water polo star headed for Cal State Bakersfield.
An illness forced her to scratch from the finals of the 200 individual medley and the 500 free, though she recovered late in the day to participate in the relays.
"We haven't been around each other much lately," said Fuller, her teammate. "I guess we might have gotten the same thing."
The lesson -- the section finals aren't supposed to be predictable.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at 578-2302 firstname.lastname@example.org.