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Beaver boys swimming duo combines for three individual wins against vaunted Crusaders

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton senior Justin Zhou took first place overall in the 100-yard freestyle against Jesuit last week.

On two hands, you could count the number of swimmers on the Beaverton boys swimming team.

In all, there are just nine Beavers suited up in orange and black cladded skull caps this season, making up what might be one of the smallest teams in the Class 6A classification.

Yet while the quantity is pocket-sized, the caliber of swimmers is state meet quality. The Beavers could send multiple relay teams to Mt. Hood Community College next month thanks to the talents Jared Pratt and Alexander Bradford as well as select individuals such as Justin Zhou and David Kraske.

So while it might look bizarre to not see a 400 free relay team compete in the final race of a dual meet simply due to a lack of numbers, don't discount Beaverton's ability to put up district points.

Beaverton's stars aren't asked to do more than they're capable of despite the lack of numbers on the roster. OSAA regulations state an individual swimmer can only compete in four events a meet including the relay events anyways. But the advantages of competing for a smaller team are bountiful. Freshmen and sophomores who might have swum on the junior varsity level are gaining invaluable experience competing "up" for the varsity team, a move that will accelerate their personal improvement. And the camaraderie amongst the squad is unmatched. Beaverton's roster is smaller than most basketball teams, so the members know each other's names, grades, strengths and weaknesses. Plus the one-to-three coach-to-swimmer ratio at Beaverton gives each athlete more attention when it comes to individual instruction.

"We're all connected," Pratt said. "The coaches know us well and it's nice because we get all of this personal feedback that most teams don't get."

Zhou (100-yard freestyle) and Kraske (500 freestyle) proved their clout on Jan. 10, taking first overall in their respective events against vaunted three-time defending state champion Jesuit.

"Watching some of the younger swimmers watch (Kraske) count (laps) in the 500, I think they caught on to his vibe," Zhou said with a smile.

Zhou also took second in the 50 free and Kraske placed first in the 100 butterfly, helping Beaverton put up 39 team points.

Zhou actually attends Oregon Episcopal School where he's a dorm student who lives on campus. Originally, Zhou is from Shanghai and moved to the United States at a young age. His parents moved back to China two years ago, but Zhou stayed in Portland. However, the Aardvarks don't have a swimming team, so Beaverton is Zhou's "home base". Zhou is Beaverton's fastest sprinter and a contender for 6A's 'A' finals in both the 50 free and the 100 breaststroke. However, head coach Judy Rusaw placed Zhou in the 100 free against Jesuit, just to see how the Beaver co-captain would compete. Zhou, it turns out, flourished and may have found a new calling after beating some of Jesuit's best.

"I think I might change to the (100) free after today, I was feeling pretty good about that one," Zhou said. "I just went in the water and it all worked out."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - The Beaverton boys swimming team only has nine swimmers, but has a handful of state contenders.

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