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Cougars to compete in Three Rivers League Championships Feb. 14-15 at Mt. Hood Community College

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Kylie Hester, Avery Keinonen, Mairen Chard and Allison Yancey will lead Canby's girls swim team into the Three Rivers League district meet this weekend after breaking the school record in the 200 medley relay last month.

Canby's girls swim team did not win a single Three Rivers League dual last season.

This year, the Cougars won four.

"Our depth just overall has improved, so that makes a big difference," Canby coach Eric Laitinen said of the turnaround. "Last year we were winning races, but we couldn't win the meet because we didn't have enough people. That's what it takes. You can't just win races. You've got to get seconds and thirds."

Canby has received a boost from a talented crop of freshmen, headlined by Avery Keinonen and Allison Yancey, two longtime swimmers with the Canby Gators.

"I've been watching high school swim meets since I started swimming, which was when I was like eight years old," Yancey said. "I always looked up to all of the high school swimmers. I had heard that it was a completely different and fun atmosphere. Club is amazing, but it's just way different than high school. In high school, you feel more like a team. I was super excited for that."

Senior Mairen Chard, the only Canby swimmer to qualify for the OSAA Class 6A state meet last season, was also excited for Yancey and Keinonen to join the high school team. The three have swam on relays together with the Gators for years.

"I'm so proud of them for everything they've done," said Chard, a future college swimmer at the University of Idaho. "Just being able to swim with people who want to be good and who are there to swim fast, it's a lot more fun."

Chard, Yancey and Keinonen practice eight times a week with the Gators, including 5 a.m. workouts before school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"You get used to it," Keinonen said. "I don't even need an alarm on Saturday anymore."

Junior Kylie Hester, a former club swimmer, is also back with the Cougars after a barrel racing accident during rodeo sliced up her knee a year ago, ending her swim season early.

"It's a blast, definitely," Hester said of returning to the pool. "I grew up with all three of these girls."

Last month, Chard (backstroke), Yancey (breaststroke), Keinonen (butterfly) and Hester (freestyle) broke the 200-yard medley school record at the Rumbaugh Invitational in Corvallis.

Canby was seeded fifth, took second in prelims, and then placed first in finals in 1 minute, 53.03 seconds.

"We had no idea," said Chard of breaking the record, which dated back to 2006. "We just wanted to win."

Individually, Yancey and Keinonen also swam personal best times in Corvallis.

Yancey finished third in the 200 IM in 2:16.44 and third in the 100 breaststroke in 1:11.56.

Keinonen placed second in the 100 fly in 58.66.

Canby's next big swim meet is the Three Rivers League Championship on Feb. 14-15 at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

"I always get super excited at districts, just the energy in the room," said Chard. "I've always swam my best at districts, even from any club meet. Talking about it gives me goosebumps. It's an amazing feeling and energy. Everyone is there cheering you on. They (Hester, Yancey and Keinonen) are going to thrive off of that type of situation. I know it."

Derek Wiley
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