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By David Pan
Sports editor 

Jackson's Limberg captures 200 IM title | Boys swimming

Wolfpack senior standout claims his first state crown


Last updated 3/6/2020 at 11:33am

Justin Limberg was soaking it all in.

The long walk to the podium. The first-place medal that hung around his neck. The cheers from the crowd, especially from a boisterous group of fans from Jackson High School.

Limberg had just won his first and only state title at the 4A State Boys Swimming Championships Saturday, Feb. 22, at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

The Wolfpack senior came in seeded third in the 200-yard individual medley but emerged from the pool as the state champion, finishing the race in 1 minute, 50.89 seconds, nearly 2 seconds faster than his preliminary time. Mount Vernon’s Luke Pustateri, who won the district title two weeks earlier, finished second in 1:51.39.

“After watching so many different people achieve it, win state title after state title, I knew coming into this knowing this was my last chance,” said Limberg, who finished second in the 100 breaststroke at last year’s state meet. “The 200 IM would probably be my best shot. I just focused on this event completely. It’s great. It feels like I’m one step out of the shadows.

“It was a dream come true. I think that’s the best way to put it. I wouldn’t say that I almost cried there, but it was definitely very emotional, after the second-place podium onto the first podium.”

Limberg was in second place after butterfly and backstroke legs. He took the lead during the breaststroke and maintained the lead during the final 50 yards of the freestyle leg.

During last year’s meet, Limberg said his nerves got the better of him.

“That definitely gave me a shock,” he said. “But overall I think it was a good experience being to come back here saying that’s not going to happen again. I went into it saying that I’m going to win, and I’m going to come back to get that first-place medal.”

Limberg didn’t mind that he came in seeded third in the finals.

“I’m kind of happy that I didn’t get top seed,” he said. “I’m not a huge person where I like a ton of eyes being on top of me. I like being the underdog.”

Limberg nevertheless felt confident going into the finals.

“I’m not cocky enough to think I’m a top-tier swimmer yet,” he said. “But any swimmer getting near that caliber needs to be able to look at the stress, figure it out, and go into every single event thinking like I’m going to win this. I definitely went all out during that 200 IM.”

The Jackson swimmer collected two other medals. Limberg took third place in the 100 breaststroke, and he and Braden Thompson, Alex Georgiev and Jensen Elsemore placed fifth in the 200 medley relay.

The same four finished ninth in the 400 freestyle relay.

Elsemore took fifth in the 100 freestyle and ninth in the 200 freestyle. Georgiev placed 10th in the 100 backstroke and 13th in the 100 butterfly.

“Jensen, Alex and Braden, they all work incredibly hard and coming into the high school season I knew this was going to be a top-notch group,” Limberg said.

“I’m really sad that I’m not going to be able to be here next year and the year after to see how they’re going to grow. But I know they’ve got so much potential. They’ve got so much talent.”

Limberg is headed to Johns Hopkins University, where he will continue his swimming.

“It felt like I broke some kind of barrier with myself and with how I’m going to perform,” Limberg said of winning a state title. “I know it’s only going to be better and better from here on out.”


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