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Juneau-Douglas High School freshman Paul Hughes competed against some of the world's best swimmers at the U.S. Open Championships, taking 43rd place in the 100-meter breaststroke Thursday at Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, N.Y.
Hughes, who represented Juneau's Glacier Swim Club at the meet, was the second-youngest swimmer in the event, which was won by world record holder Ed Moses of Damascus, Md. Most of the swimmers were college age or had experience international competition. Hughes just turned 15.
Moses, of Curl-Burke Swim Club, won the race in 1 minute, 0.26 seconds, a time well off his world and American record time of 57.44. Hughes posted a time of 1:06.25, nearly two seconds better than the 1:08.18 he swam in August to break the Western Zone Championships record.
"This meet gives some of the younger swimmers around the country a chance to swim against Olympic-caliber competition," said Glacier Swim Club assistant coach Marc Bucat, who also helps coach the Juneau-Douglas High School team.
While Hughes wasn't one of the 24 swimmers who advanced to the three different finals in the 100 breast, he did get some revenge over the only other Alaskan in the event. Dimond High School senior Gilbert Raposa, who beat Hughes for the state title in the 100-yard breaststroke on Nov. 10, finished in 56th place. Raposa, who represented Anchorage's Aurora Swim Team at the meet, posted a time of 1:07.00.
Bucat said the slightly longer pool -- the meet was held in a 25-meter pool, a length known to swimmers as short-course meters -- played to Hughes' strength. A 100-meter race is about 110 yards, and Hughes was able to use his height advantage to beat Raposa.
"Paul is better at meters, because he can lengthen out a bit in his stroke," Bucat said. "Gilbert's a little quicker coming out of the turns, but Paul's a little faster swimmer."
In Thursday's other men's events, Michael Phelps of North Baltimore Swim Club won the 200-meter individual medley; China's Hong Zhe Sun, who now lives in Hawaii, won the 200 backstroke; Robert Margalis of Florida won the 400 freestyle; Julio Santos of Phoenix Swim Club won the 50 free; and the Canada A team of Keith Beavers, Brent O'Connor, Andrew Coupland and Frederic Cayen won the 800 free relay.
In Thursday's women's events, Olympic champion Megan Quann of Puyallup, Wash., won the 100 breast; Alenka Kejzar of Slovenia and Southern Methodist University won the 200 IM and the 200 back and was the day's only double-event winner; Christina Swindle of Miami Swimming Club won the 50 free; Janelle Atkinson of the University of Florida won the 400 free; and the Southern Methodist University team of Lotta Wanberg, Flavi Rigamonti, McCall Dorr and Lisa Wanberg won the 800 free relay.
The meet runs through Saturday.