Oregon's high school swimming epicenter runs through Beaverton.
It truly is a hub, with individual state champions abound, worldly-wise coaches who can bring the best out of their athletes and two powerhouses who have ruled this state for a decade.
Since 2011 either Jesuit or Sunset boys have won the Class 6A state championship. The Crusaders have captured the past four state crowns. The Apollo and Crusader girls' teams have flipped first and second place trophies dating back to 2016. Sunset won back to back crowns in '17 and '18, knocking out Jesuit in the process while Jesuit returned the favor last year and in '16.
It's a rivalry that's stood the test of time on both sides of the ledger. Each school gets to face off against one another three times during the year: once during the regular season in Metro League competition and again at the district title and the 6A state meet. The feud brings out each team's peak no matter the setting, no matter the stakes.
"Honestly, it's the intensity of the meets," Sunset head coach Adam Farber said. "We've had meets that come down to the end and you hear the screaming and yelling. It feels like state, when it's just another dual. That's been a lot of fun over the years. We've had those years where we've taken it and it makes it hurt a little bit more when you lose because you know you've had it."
The scouting sneak peeks both Farber and Jesuit head coach Brian Butcher get are invaluable as well. Neither team trotted out its optimal lineup when Jesuit swept Sunset last week at Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center. There is tinkering, training and tapering to be done still. But there is no doubt these two proud, illustrious programs will once again duke it out for the big postseason prizes over the next few weeks.
"It gave us a better understanding of where we are and what we can hopefully accomplish," Farber said.
They are the state's standard, the cream of a district crop that yields some of the fastest, toughest individuals in 6A regardless of school.
"A lot of what happens at state gets determined over here (at THAC)," Farber said. "You have Westview and Beaverton and Southridge that have amazing swimmers. You have some serious relay races that push you to the limit. Racing in the Metro League every week probably wears us down, but it shows us what's out there and pushes us."
No public school has been as consistent or successful as Sunset. The boys' four-peat from 2011-14 was legendary. The girls' consecutive crowns with Alayna Connor, Tia Lindsay, Lindsay Swail and Lily Gardner was an incredible run, propelled by close friendships in and out of the pool and pure speed. Even as more schools open their doors across the district and the pull of private school cushion taps into Sunset's well of talent from time to time, the Apollos persist and prosper.
"Win or lose, as long as they're out there swimming hard and having fun doing it, that's high school swimming, that's the goal," Farber said. "I've been pretty fortunate over the years to have some really strong teams. I've been blessed."
The boys are led by stars such as Kevin Lei, who won the 200 free against Jesuit, Kevin Park, who placed second in the 200 IM, Regis Wang and Jon Westlake. Westlake took second in the 100 butterfly. Lucas Gomes swam to second place in the 500 free. That aforementioned foursome won the 200 free relay against the Crusaders and took second in the 400 free relay.
The Apollo girls are as talented as ever. Both of the Lindsays sisters are back as is Hannah Trainer, Zoey Dodson. Sunset also relies on several younger budding stars in Nicolien Corbeau, whose last name might ring a bell to Apollo swimming fans, Zoey Dodson and Natalie Fernstrom. Unfortunately, Gardner transferred to Valley Catholic over the summer. The junior won two individual state championships and anchored Sunset's 400 free relay that set a state record last year as well as the Apollos' state winning 200 free relay.
But Tia Lindsay is the defending 6A state champion in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke. Trainer made the finals of the 50 and 100 free. Kiki Lindsay was an 'A' finalist in the 200 IM. Trainer won the 50 and 200 free against Jesuit. Tia Lindsay took first in the 100 free and 100 back. The Crusader girls won the dual 96-74, but Sunset's lineup wasn't fully set. The relays, always a hallmark for this program, haven't been set in stone yet. All Farber wanted to see was Sunset empty the tank and compete collectively.
"The girls swam great," Farber said. "It's always great to get the win, but honestly I couldn't ask for much more. Their heads were in it. They had a great mentality and a good understanding of what was going on. They had a really great attitude toward it. The team wanted to get this and go after (Jesuit) and it makes for some awesome races out there."
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