The Hilhi boys swim team won the school's first-ever state swimming championship in February at Mt. Hood Community College, and according to head coach Fred Anderson, it was well deserved.
"You can't say enough about these kids," Anderson said. "They've got good grades, they're good athletes, they're good students. They're just nice people!"
And these nice guys didn't finish last.
On the backs of a handful of individual finishes and two huge relay performances, the Spartan boys built a one-point lead heading into the final event of the day and simply had to finish the 400-yard freestyle relay to secure the win and make a little Hillsboro High School history.
"We were behind those blocks saying, 'this is the last time we'll swim together in a relay,'" said senior Matthew Arnold. "We just had to not get disqualified and finish, but we wanted that gold so we went for it."
And they got it.
The relay team, comprised of Arnold, fellow seniors Dylan Fisher and Mitchell Morrison and junior Matthew Peterkort, won the race and surprised themselves with a time of 3:15.28.
"Considering the circumstances, we weren't expecting to swim that fast," Arnold said. "But when I touched the wall I was like, 'whoa.'"
It was the second relay win of the day for the Spartans, after Arnold, Fisher, Morrison and junior Caden Spangler won the 200-yard freestyle relay earlier. Spangler and Peterkort also teamed with senior Robert Ellis and sophomore Nathan Claxton to finish fourth in the 200-yard medley relay as well.
Individually, Arnold successfully defended his 2016 100-yard backstroke title by winning this year's event with a time of 53.06, narrowly defeating South Albany's Zack Gardner (53.45), while Hilhi's Claxton finished fifth (57.01).
In the 200-yard freestyle, won by Corvallis' Noah Vial with a time of 1:42.80, Morrison finished fourth with a time of 1:49.15 and Peterkort sixth with a 1:51.07.
Morrison also finished fourth in the 100-yard freestyle (48.84) behind the winner, Lebanon's Casey McEuen (45.57) who was the male swimmer of the meet.
While pleased, Morrison said he could've done better.
"It felt good and it was a good race, but it wasn't my best," said Morrison. "But I definitely had fun in this environment in front of all these people. It was a great experience."
Other individual results included Spangler with fifth-place finishes in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke; Fisher with a fourth-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle and fifth in the 100-yard freestyle; Peterkort with a sixth in the 500-yard freestyle; and Arnold third in the 100-yard butterfly.
While "surreal" and yet to fully sink in, Coach Anderson, Arnold and Morrison agreed winning the team championship was special.
"It feels great to win and it was really a team effort," Morrison said. "We tried for four years, built a good team with a lot of good people. To win with these boys, it's really something else."