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The Tigers look to make their mark in McMinnville this weekend at Pacific Conference championships

The Newberg High School swim team, fresh off mixed results against Forest Grove in its final regular season meet Jan. 29, is preparing for the Pacific Conference District Championships on Friday and Saturday.

The Tiger boys beat Sherwood 90-80 in the dual meet, while the girls lost 104-66. According to coach George Sampson, insufficient depth was exacerbated by a lack of healthy personnel on the girls' side.

"The girls were decimated by sickness," Sampson said. "I had a whole bunch of girls out against Sherwood and Sherwood would've beat us straight up anyway, but this made it that much tougher."

For the boys, first place finishes by Ty Patterson, Zach Jordan, Elijah Clements and Trey Fincher anchored the Tigers' performance once again, including some relay wins that featured the talented foursome. Austin Thornton picked up a victory in the 100 breaststroke as well.

The Tigers have talent near the top of their boys' squad, which Sampson said gives them a chance to make some noise at districts. Against Sherwood, the boys had one thing on their minds, the coach said: Victory in individual swims.

"They were just swimming to win," Sampson said. "That's all they were interested in doing because they knew they had it in the bag if they scored first place."

Fighting illness and a disadvantage in terms of depth, the girls were able to pull off a handful of victories. Nikki Rubottom finished first in the 50 free and 100 fly, and Stella Byles won the 100 free and 100 backstroke.

A quartet of Byles, Rubottom, Natalie Kisling and Halle Harper won the 200 relay as well. It was a solid performance given the circumstances, but Sherwood overwhelmed the Tigers with depth in nearly every event.

"Sherwood beat us up pretty good on the girls' side," Sampson said. "The boys swam a lot of events that they normally don't swim, so the score isn't really indicative of what the difference in the teams is. Sherwood swam strong on both sides."

District competition looms this weekend. Sampson expects a top-three performance from both of his teams, but pointed to the boys' squad as a potential winner if things fall in their favor.

McMinnville is the team to beat for the boys and girls, he said, with stiff competition expected by a handful of other teams on the girls' side.

"If the boys step up big, they might put together enough points to get past McMinnville," Sampson said. "I think it's going to be a close conference race. "We should finish solid in the middle of the pack on the girls' side. Third or fourth is what we're probably looking at. Forest Grove, Sherwood and Glencoe have some talented teams."

The district championships will be held Friday and Saturday at McMinnville Aquatic Center. After that, the Tigers will prepare for state competition, with districts serving as a litmus test for an even tougher battle ahead. If the boys continue their steady improvement, they have a chance to make the podium at state, Sampson said.

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