Head coach Eric Laitinen reflects on the season that was and the swimmers who improved

ARCHIVE PHOTO - Canby's girls team took 15th place at the state meet out of 50 teams, a solid showing for the Cougars. Canby's boys and girls swim teams had a tough season. The teams compete in one of the toughest districts in the state, and won just a single meet between the two of them. Despite that though, individual swimmers had solid seasons.

For the girls' team at the state meet, sophomore Mairen Chard took eighth place in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 59.72 seconds and ninth place in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 59.36 seconds. Senior Kaitlyn Hester took eighth place in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 24.90 seconds, and seventh place in the 100-yard freestyle race with a time of 54.26 seconds. The girls team took 15th place overall. The girls took 13th in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:56.23, and 11th in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:47.48.

On the boys side of things, senior Jarod Spencer took 10th place in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:02.07. The boys team tied for 28th overall. ARCHIVE PHOTO - The Canby boys team placed 28th in the state meet.

For Canby head coach Eric Laitinen, the tough showing at districts and solid showings at state are indicative of the level of competition his athletes had to face all season.

"Our district is super tough," Laitinen said. "If you look at all the district results, there's two districts that have the majority of the state qualifiers. It's our district and Metro. We had a lot of new swimmers this year, so probably half of our team is brand new. They made great progress over the season, so anytime they are improving and getting better the whole season that's really good."

"I thought that at the state meet, getting that many people from districts to state meant we had a good district meet," Laitinen added. "They all swam very well at the state meet and all improved. That was a fantastic finish for the season."

The teams were made up of new competitive swimmers, but that did not keep the competitors from improving over the course of the season. Laitinen listed off several swimmers that have lessened their times.

"Besides Mairen and Kaitlyn, who did really well and went on to state individually, Kira Goepford dropped 15 seconds in her 500 freestyle," Laitinen said. "Natalie Doman, a sophomore, who dropped a bunch of time right at the end of the season. She finally realized what it was to race, and swam very fast. On the boys side, Ben Plum improved a lot, Bjorn (Laitinen) improved a lot, and Hudson (Ehrich) did exceptionally well at districts."

Despite being a coach for 30 years, there are still things that Laitinen tries to learn and apply to his teams each year. This year his lesson was in how hard to push his athletes.

"I challenged the swimmers a little more this year by making the practices a little tougher to see if they would make a bigger jump forward at the end of the season, and I think that worked," Laitinen said. "Some years I'm a little worried that if I push them too hard I'll have kids drop out. They stuck with it this year."

With such improvements over the course of the season, and a proven resilience to the increased difficulty of practices, Laitinen is proud of his athletes, many of whom participated in their first swimming season. Laitinen believes that swimming is the most inclusive sport if people are willing to simply give it a shot.

"The nice thing about high school swimming is that it is open to all the students," Laitinen said. "We have a lot of people that haven't swam, or haven't swam competitively before, and it's a great sport to try and see if it's for you."

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