Large graduating class of 10 seniors leaves White Buffalos with a small team.

WILL DENNER/MADRAS PIONEER - Junior Gabi Smith (above) has earned a reputation as a tireless worker, and her times continue to reflect that. She has a good shot to qualify for state in the 100 freestyle, and could also contend in the 100 butterfly.
The Madras High swimming team and head coach Tim Nelson could see it coming.

Following the end of last season, in which a total of 10 seniors graduated from high school competition, the White Buffalos left little in reserve to replace them. Although it won't be long before numbers are bolstered at the high school level, as a result of a growing Madras Swim Team club program, that ascension is likely still a few years away.

In the meantime, the best of last year's bunch, state champion Garrett Webb and state qualifier Melissa Field, have since left, but the absence of those seniors has paved the way for a core group of returnees to shine.

Junior Gabi Smith is the only returning swimmer on the girls team, with sophomore Eryn McCourtney also joining her. Senior Kyle Hartman, sophomores Teague Schierling and Grayson Dominguez, as well as freshman Karson Hartman, lead the boys' side.

Aside from Webb, perhaps no one worked harder on last year's team than Smith, who continued improving throughout the summer season. Her best shot at qualifying for state this year appears to be in the 100 free, and she could be within reach of a spot in the 100 butterfly as well.

"She worked hard through the summer and into the fall, so she improved quite a bit again," Nelson said. "She should be a district finalist, for sure. Top three hopefully in the 100 freestyle, and we'll see where it goes from there. If she drops three or four seconds, she should get into state, which is highly possible."

Kyle Hartman is back for one last high school season, taller and stronger than he was a year ago. Nelson said his best shot at state is likely in the 100 butterfly.

Along with his younger brother, Karson Hartman, Dominguez and Schierling, that group could potentially compete in relays. As past seasons have proven, contenders in those events are far from solidified, and if the foursome jells, they could also be in the mix for a state qualifying time at districts.

"Relays are just a wild card, in what schools have and what relays they swim," Nelson said.

With less than a full roster, the Buffs won't be scoring a lot of points as a team this year. As such, they will only travel to invitationals at Bend, Hood River, Ridgeview and Redmond, while also hosting a few home events during the season, as well as the Special District 2 meet Feb. 9-10, which will determine who qualifies for state.

"We're going to hold two invitational meets and only go to invitationals," Nelson said. "You need eight boys and eight girls to really field a swim meet; we don't have that. So we'll go to larger meets and just kind of blend into crowds."

The Buffs open the season Dec. 2 at the Madras Aquatic Center for the annual Madras Relays. The meet is slated to begin at 11:45 a.m.

Contact Will Denner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow him on Twitter @MadrasSports, @WillCDenner

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