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Madras Swim Team secures several qualifying times for state meet Feb. 23-25.

WILL DENNER/MADRAS PIONEER - Karson Hartman swims the backstroke during the Buffs' Jan. 30 4-way meet at the Madras Aquatic Center. The MAC will also be the site of their Special District 2 meet, on Feb. 9-10.
Madras got one last tune-up during a 4-way meet Jan. 30 at the Madras Aquatic Center, ahead of its 4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 2 meet Feb. 9-10.

Districts will also be held at the MAC, and will decide who goes on to state.

While the White Buffalos' individual times are currently outside the top 12, which is the cutoff point for state, they still have an outside chance at qualifying a couple for state.

The MAC has hosted several big meets during the fall and winter, and organizers said they're prepared to handle big crowds.

"We've hosted three meets in three weeks, so I think we've got it down," Madras coach Tim Nelson said. "We'll have some portable bleachers brought in and a lot more seating for the parents."

The meet will begin at 12 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Record number of MST swimmers compete at home

Prior to the Corvallis Open Jan. 26-28, Elli Williams, 13, had only one sub-30 second, 50-yard freestyle under her belt, at 29.53.

On the final day of the meet, she blasted a 27.84, an effort with a reasonable chance of qualifying for state over the next two weeks.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TIM NELSON - Madras Swim Team members in the bullpen during a home meet Feb. 3.The state mark of 27.49 was certainly on the minds of Elli and Madras Swim Team coaches Tim and Sara Nelson Saturday as MST hosted a swim meet for 120 swimmers at the Madras Aquatic Center. Elli would swim the 50 freestyle three times in an effort to join her younger siblings Lexi and Ava at state.

Per USA Swimming rules, a "first 50" split time in any freestyle race is an official time as long as the swimmer finishes the designated race distance. First up was the 100 freestyle. Elli clocked a 27.56 split — a blink away. Next, the 50 freestyle — 27.61.

According to head coach Tim Nelson, Elli showed no signs of discouragement, as he urged her to stay loose for the 200 freestyle about an hour later. And loose she was, as the scoreboard read 27.25, securing her a return trip to Corvallis Feb. 23-25.

"Part of me can't believe the strategy actually worked, but this is how we train the kids — we swim them fast at some point every day," said Tim Nelson.

Not lost in the competition, was a record 53 MST swimmers competing, along with swimmers from Hood River, Redmond and Bend. The meet, held every year on the first weekend in February, highlights MST's first year and novice swimmers.

According to Sara Nelson, the younger and newer kids posted some really fast times. Examples included Marley Simmelink's 25-yard backstroke effort of 23.40, only off the MST record by a second; and, Gabriella Torres' (10), Reed Simmelink's (10), and Gavin Pollock's quick 50-yard freestyles.

"They are MST's future — future success for the MST family and our community," according to Sara Nelson.

MAC Executive Director, Joe McHaney, in attendance, noted, "Tim and Sara have built a program here that is very special. I am not one to forget that when they walked in, our swim program had 15 swimmers, was barely surviving and in turmoil. They turned it around and have our program thriving with success and so many positives."

While this meet marks the end of competition for most MST swimmers, stiff competition lies ahead for MST's prowess.

Julian Hollingshead (freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley), Kami Ackley (freestyle, butterfly and backstroke) and the three Williams sisters look forward to state later this month.

In March, Julian and Lexi will travel to Federal Way, Washington, to compete in regionals. Julian secured his slot in the 100 breaststroke Saturday, lowering his own MST mark to 1:09.01; and, Lexi who will compete at state as an 11-year-old, will face her first competition as a 12-year-old at regionals in the 50, 100, 200, and 500 freestyles.

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