IRVINE Mission Viejo Nadadores swimmer Alex Ispas signed a national letter of intent with his dream university — Northwestern — on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

On Thursday night, the Santa Margarita High senior raced as the youngest male in the fastest heat of the men’s 800-meter freestyle at the U.S. Open

And his spot in the sizzling heat at the Woollett Aquatics Center arrived as a surprise.

“I got scratched in,” he said.

Yes, talk about a couple of whirlwind days.

In his first pool competition since February because of the pandemic, Ispas clocked a time of 8 minutes, 31.94 seconds in the 800 freestyle, which combined with the results from the other nine sites for the meet, placed him 58th overall.

While his entry time of 8:14.39 — clocked racing for Austria at the European Junior Championships last summer — would have placed him in the Top 25, Ispas wasn’t too hard on himself.

“I’m happy to be back,” he said. “Being here and stepping up to race these guys is what I’ve missed.”

Ispas, 17, also is pleased with his training with the Nadadores, which was one of the first teams to resume training amid the pandemic.

“I’ve been pretty motivated these last few months going into this winter season, so I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “We have a great group at Mission Viejo right now. We’ve been getting in some great work in.”

Ispas said he also is intrigued by open water racing. He made his debut at the recent West Coast Open Water Championships at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev. and placed ninth in the 10K.

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By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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