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Hill’s Mestre stars with sprint golds at Easterns

LANCASTER >> Alberto Mestre looked up at the board at Franklin & Marshall’s Kunkel Aquatic Center Friday night with a mix of delight and disappointment.

Next to the Hill School senior’s name in the finals of the 50 freestyle at the Eastern Interscholastic Championships were four conflicting digits: 20.00.

“I definitely wanted to go a 19.99 rather than 20.00,” Mestre admitted Saturday with a smile. “But I’m very happy with the outcome of my swim and my race, especially getting first and getting the meet record. It’s a pretty old record.”

That swim betters Mestre’s school record in the event, one that had been owned by his father, Alberto Sr., until Alberto Jr. set the mark his junior year. Mestre Sr. went on to represent Venezuela at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.

The Easterns mark was set by another Olympian: Gustavo Borges, who set a time of 20.08 in his days at the Bolles School in 1991. Borges competed in four Olympics for Brazil, winning two silver medals and two bronze.

With that illustrious company, Mestre completed the sprint double Saturday with a come-from-behind performance in the 100 freestyle in 44.57 seconds. He was one of three male double-winners, joining national-record-breaker Reece Whitley of Penn Charter and Haverford School’s Alex Boratto.

Mestre dueled with Peddie School’s Nathan Stern for the 100 crown. Mestre was quickest to the 50-yard wall, though slower than he wanted, before Stern surged in the third 25 and came off the last wall ahead by a slight margin. But Mestre summoned another gear, pulling ahead in the final meters to edge Stern by two tenths of a second. (Mestre later posted that same time of 44.77 off the front of Hill’s 400 free relay, which won the B final in 3:07.82.)

“My plan was to go out a little bit harder, go out in 21.2 but I ended up out in 21.5, so I expected to be first throughout the whole race,” Mestre said. “But it definitely gave me a good jump at the end of the race to be a little bit behind and bring it home.”

Mestre’s younger brother, Alfonso, finished fourth in his favored event, the 500 free. From a midseason time of 4:46, Alfonso said dropped to 4:38.78 in the morning prelims to scrape into the eighth and final A final slot, then uncorked a fourth-place 4:31.76 from Lane 8. The race was won by Matthew Hirschberger, Alberto’s future teammate at Stanford, in 4:24.48.

“I never expected that time,” Alfonso said. “I think that time is amazing for me since I’m just a sophomore. I think next year will be a really good meet for me.”

Senior diver Christian DeVol won that competition with a score of 560.55 as both the boys and girls teams finished eighth in the final points.

As Alberto Mestre readies to head off to Stanford, one of the nation’s premier programs, the weekend at F&M provides a fitting coda to a brilliant high school career and a pivot for what lies ahead.

“This was a very fun meet,” Alberto said. “And I’m very happy that I got to do it with my brother and with my team.”

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