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Crusaders bring back a slew of swimming stars on both sides of the ledger this year

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - The Jesuit girls swimming team won the Class 6A state championship last year and is one of the favorits this year.

At Jesuit, there is always room for one more state championship banner high among the Knight Center rafters.

Some day, space will certainly become an issue. Only so many oversized green and gold pennants can be displayed before the illumination in the gym is affected by the state-certified homage. But for now, the Crusaders are trying to cram as many state title reminders as possible in the sky.

The swimming program certainly has done its part to add to the allure over the years.

Jesuit has become state royalty. The boys have won the past Class 6A state championships. The girls are the defending 6A state titlists and won seven state crowns over the last decade. Neither side has shown any signs of slowing down. The boys were young last year, with underclassmen everywhere. So were the girls. Stars such as Marco Nosack, Matthias Kreutzer, Noah Duyck, Nick Simons, Emma Matous, Isabella Wallace and Fay Marie Lustria are all back for both the guys and girls. These are state champs and standouts with big-time star power. In the Metro League, there are stacked counterparts such as Sunset but it would come as no surprise if both Crusader programs repeated in their respective team causes.

Sunset and Jesuit are the 6A standard-bearers. The Crusader boys have won the past four state crowns and are the favorite to add another to the lineage. But before 2014, the Apollos ruled 6A, winning their own four-peat of state titles. Together they dominated the decade. And the girls weren't far behind. Sunset sandwiched two state titles in between Jesuit crusades in '16 and '19. Swimming stereotypically has a scrubbed aesthetic. Competitors tend to be buddies rather than enemies. But between Jesuit and Sunset, there is unspoken strife. Neither team is outspokenly against one another. Yet there's a line in the sand both for district and state terrain. Neither program backs down. Just look at the times. Despite not being in "rest mode" yet, each team was putting up seasonal best when they squared off during the regular season for their annual penultimate dual. Those marks, especially in the relays, probably sent shivers down the spines of the top coaches around the state. They are a byproduct of the in-between-the-line competition that takes place between the Beaverton-area elites.

"Every year it's been continuing," Jesuit head coach Brian Butcher said. "Luckily it's happened when both of us can handle it. You never know what it's going to happen. Our kids know Sunset is going to bring out its best, so they have to bring theirs. If you're a Metro swimmer, every meet is going to be a battle, so you have to be ready. It's a family of swimmers, as well."

Butcher said more and more kids are swimming in high school now, so we're seeing bigger and bigger teams across the state. Elite swimmers who once turned down the high school season to focus on their club teams are coming out and donning their school colors.

"That means more people are getting excited about high school swimming," Butcher said. "They're seeing really fast kids that are going to junior nationals who are swimming for their high schools. And, they're having fun, so they want to get a piece of that. They get that energy of being a part of a team and they get excited about it."

Butcher said he wants both of his teams to be healthy as possible come the postseason, to be smart when it comes to training and then get the best times on the big stage. They've certainly performed at their peak in the heaviest of moments in the past. Simons, Nosack, Duyck, and Kreutzer won a state title as Jesuit's 200-yard medley last year. Kreutzer, Duyck and Nosack were on the state winning 400 free relay. Nosack won the 100 breaststroke and Simons took top honors in the 100 backstroke as a freshman. Wallace and Matous were key components of the state-winning 200 medley for the girls. Wallace won state in the 100 free. With so many defending state champions, wells of state qualifiers and potential 'A' finalists, it's easy to see why Jesuit is the prohibitive favorite to repeat both as district and state champs. The Metro district championship meet is this Friday and Saturday at Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center. The finals are on Saturday afternoon. The 6A state meet is two weeks from Saturday, back at THAC.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit sophomore Nick Simons is a defending Class 6A state champion in the backstroke.

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