SHERIDAN — It may have taken longer than Oscar Patten envisioned, but that arguably made it that much sweeter. For four years Patten chased a state title, and in his final individual race as a Sheridan Bronc, he held off the field to capture that illusive top spot on the podium.
“When I saw No. 1 right next to my name, I was extremely surprised, yet I knew it was coming,” Patten said.
Patten held the top spot in the 100-yard freestyle following prelims Friday. He swam in 47.21 seconds, which positioned him 10 one-hundredths of a second ahead of Laramie’s McKay Lake. That margin shrunk Saturday during the final race.
Patten swam the first 50 yards a half-second faster than McKay, but the Laramie swimmer had a second-half kick in him. Patten lost most of his lead on his final flip turn and a mad dash to the wall ensued. The Sheridan product reached the touch pad a hair faster, logging a 47.13, which topped Lake by two one-hundredths of a second.
“It was awesome,” Sheridan head coach Brent Moore said. “… I’m glad Oscar got it, and I’m just proud of him.”
Saturday didn’t start off great for Patten. He finished third in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 48.48 seconds — almost five seconds slower than the first-place finisher.
This put Sheridan’s captain in a peculiar state of mind.
“I was understandably a little concerned about my swimming that day because I didn’t swim a very good 200,” Patten said. “I just had the mentality, more like a caged animal I guess. I was going to do anything to win a state title because I just lost, and I had one more shot, and I just knew I had to get it.”
Rewind four years to Patten’s freshman season, which featured a school record in the 200-meter freestyle relay. This gave Patten the fire to put extra work in the pool and dedicate himself to the sport. He saw more positive results in his sophomore year, breaking an individual school record for the first time.
Patten’s final season saw him shatter a couple more records, which included one in the final home meet of his high school career.
But all of those highlights couldn’t hold a candle to what Patten felt Saturday afternoon.
“That first place is one of the best moments of high school,” he said.
The Broncs as a whole exceeded Moore’s expectations for the state meet. With just seven swimmers competing, Sheridan placed sixth, a couple spots higher than Moore predicted.
Caleb Johannesmeyer logged a couple top-10 finishes — a third in the 100-yard butterfly and a 10th in the 50-yard freestyle — while Sam Sampson placed eighth in the 500-yard freestyle. Also, all three of the Broncs’ relay teams qualified to finals and placed in the top six with the 200-yard medley leading the way, touching fourth.
Patten will compete in a large invitational in Seattle in March and then likely make his college decision shortly thereafter. He’s hoping to sign with the University of Wyoming as a preferred walk-on.
No matter where Patten ends up, though, he’ll carry with him a state title.