Tigers earn district championship
For so many years, Newberg has featured a handful of the best swimmers in the league (and even the state) only to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of swimmers other teams could throw in the pool come district tournament time.
For most of the last two-plus decades, McMinnville was the culprit, with the likes of Tualatin, Lake Oswego and Lakeridge taking their place when the Tigers moved to the Three Rivers League four years ago.
The shoe, however, was finally on the other foot for Newberg over the weekend, as the Tigers piled up points in bunches and cruised to the first district title of coach George Sampson's 15-year tenure at the school and perhaps first ever period.
"To have the depth for the boys to come here and take districts in our last year is a great accomplishment," said Sampson, who was named boys coach of the year. "I've got two great assistant coaches that really help."
The Tigers certainly have a talismanic leader in junior Trey Fincher, who swept the 50 (21.79) and 100 freestyle (47.80) events and anchored the winning 200 free (1:31.29) and fourth-place 400 free (3:21.36) relays, but the Tigers' depth in the sprints was definitely their strength.
In addition to Fincher's win, Zach Jordan was fourth (23.11), Ty Patterson fifth (23.35) and Raleigh Day sixth (23.36) to collectively score 62 points in the 50 free alone. It was a similar story in the 100 free, as Fincher, Jordan, Patterson and Day went 1-5-6-7 to score 59 points.
The Tigers didn't not have many swimmers in the A finals of many other events, but made up for that with three or four in the B finals, like in the 200 IM, 100 fly and 500 free.
"We had three or four guys in the B finals and they all swam up and that was absolutely huge," Sampson said. "It gave us a cushion over Tualatin that we didn't really expect."
In order to protect its lead, Newberg was especially conservative on its exchanges, but still recorded a season's best time and earned an automatic bid to state.
"They knew they had it in the bag. The 200, they let it all hang out and they won," Sampson said. "It was a great team effort by the boys."
Improved depth was also a factor on the girls side, as the Tigers placed sixth with 190 points.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic with the way the girls did," Sampson said. "Last year we didn't win a dual meet, were dead last at this meet. This year we got a bunch of talented freshmen in. They swam well, they bought in and they steadily dropped time all year long.
A gutsy effort by Senior Tina Childress was the highlight of the meet, as the senior was out of school and did not practice all week due to an ear infection that had one ear completely swollen shut.
Despite that, Childress won the 50 (24.61) and 100 freestyle (53.66) events to give Newberg it's first-ever sweep of those events by a boy-girl duo.
"My times weren't PRs, but knowing that I consumed like 1,000 calories this week, that I managed to be district champ is pretty cool," she said. "I'm excited for state to break my PRs."
Childress also anchored the 200 freestyle relay to a third-place finish in 1:43.22. That was good enough for an automatic bid to the state championships, while the 200 medley relay (1:55.98) placed fourth and earned a wild-card bid to state.
Sophomore Stella Byles also earned a wild-card bid with her runner-up finish in the 50 free (25.33) and was sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:00.21).
Freshman Nikki Rubottom added a ninth-place showing in the 100 fly (1:06.03) and classmate Hallie Harper was ninth in the 100 breaststroke (1:15.52.).
"Everybody swam well," Sampson said. "The kids in the consolation finals swam up and scored more points than they were supposed to, so we had a great district meet."
The Tigers will return to Mount Hood Community College Friday and Saturday for the OSAA 6A state championships. The Newberg girls placed eighth a year ago and the boys were 26th.