The beacon of hope radiating from the Beaverton girls swimming team strode out of the team's locker room fired up as could be and a bit floored about what had just transpired.
The Beavers' 200-yard freestyle relay with Joyce Lee, Olivia DeYoung, Lucy Ray and Greta Heidrich took Jesuit to the wall, going toe-to-toe with one of the truly elite programs in the land. At first glance it looked like Beaverton beat Jesuit in a photo finish, touching the Beaverton Pool wall in time for the upset. Later, when the finish was revealed, Jesuit, in fact, took first by the slimmest of seconds, clocking at 1:45.15 to Beaverton's 1:45.38.
But to Beaverton that second place finish felt like something much bigger. The Beavers dropped the dual meet 119-51 on Jan. 10, yet that relay team's success signified a turn for the better, toward district relevancy in a Metro League ruled by Sunset and Jesuit the last half-decade.
"Swimming is such an underrated sport at Beaverton," Heidrich said. "Our team only has less than 50 people. It's not really that popular and not many people want to come out and join the team. So, I think this gives us credentials. At Beaverton, beating Jesuit carries a lot of weight. It gives us a lot of confidence. It's such a morale booster. We all have the heart and the passion to win."
What's maybe most promising about Beaverton's photo finish in the relay was the circumstances surrounding the meet. Most of the Beavers didn't practice regularly over the winter break and Heidrich was still getting over an illness that hampered her training last week. Still, each of the relay squad swam their best relay splits of the season.
"We were just so happy to be together and that's what that race was about," Heidrich said. "Hopefully it inspires other kids to get into swimming. I think we do have a lot of potential and can push ourselves to do better. You don't necessarily have to be the best, but as long as you try your hardest and work hard, it will work out."
Heidrich said the Jesuit race was the first time herself, Lee, DeYoung and Ray had all competed on the same 200 free relay squad. The Beavers waited for the right time to spring the stack on the district and bagged a mark that's just a second off the state qualifying time. Now it's a group that Beaverton hopes can finish in the top three, maybe even the top-two, at the district championship meet in February.
Lee gave Beaverton a great boost as the first leg of the relay and ended up outperforming her career-best split. The senior co-captain said she wasn't distressed at all before the race but rather hyped to take a shot at the Jesuit juggernaut. For the first time all season, Lee said she just forgot about everything and just enjoyed the race. Such a team performance, Lee explained, will have a positive long-term payoff.
"I don't want to settle, I want to see how much more I can do and see how much time I can drop," Lee said. "We've improved so much. Races are usually painful and stressful, but that one was just focused. For me, it opened a door for that experience because I can get into that mindset for my other races too."
Beaverton began its league slate by beating Southridge and Mountainside and is now 2-1 in league with matchups against Sunset, Aloha and Westview upcoming. Ray finished second in the 100 butterfly and DeYoung took second in the 100 free against Jesuit while Grace Magee took second overall in the 500 free.
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