Newberg boys third at state
The Newberg boys swim team turned in an excellent performance at the 6A state swim meet on Friday and Saturday, finishing third behind Jesuit and Central Catholic. The Tigers made some history as well, setting state and school records.
Before the boys had a memorable day in the pool, the girls had a couple participants in various state races – the best of which being sophomore Stella Byles' eighth-place finish in the 50 free with a time of 24.84 seconds.
According to coach George Sampson, the girls lacked depth and experience this season, but look ahead to next year with a chance to improve.
"The girls are going to look really good next year," Sampson said. "They've got a bunch of those water polo girls along with Halle Harper, and they are going to improve tremendously over the next year. I'm excited to see what they do."
All season long, four swimmers carried the Tiger boys to convincing results: Seniors Zach Jordan, Elijah Clements and Trey Fincher, and sophomore Ty Patterson. The state meet was no different as the quartet left their mark on Newberg sports history.
Clements got the ball rolling in the 100 fly – a race he finished fourth behind swimmers from Aloha, West Linn and Tigard. Less than a quarter of a second separated Clements (50.92) from second place swimmer Kevin Vu from West Linn (50.46), and Tigard's Ben Miller took the top spot with a time of 49.84 seconds.
According to Sampson, Clements's performance in the 100 fly ignited the Newberg boys for their swims in the 200 and 400 relays. The Tigers had a lofty goal in mind for their 200 swim: Beat McMinnville's 1998 overall state record of 1:26.08.
Newberg came up short of that goal but got the win and set a 6A and school record at 1:26.11, toppling Westview's 2009 mark of 1:26.31. Sampson said Fincher was a little slow off the blocks, which ultimately made the difference between a 6A record and an overall state record.
Still, though, Sampson expressed how proud he was of the boys for finishing first in a competitive race.
"It's rare for any public school in Oregon to have four swimmers that can go under 22 seconds," Sampson said. "If you look at our old school record, two of the guys were up in the 22s, so to get a performance like we did from a little town like us was pretty special."
The Tigers followed up their 200 relay victory with a second place finish in the 400 relay, posting a time of 3:10.05. Jesuit set the 6A record in its victory at 3:07.67.
Newberg managed enough points (53) to finish third among boys teams behind Central Catholic (77) and Jesuit (101). Finishing as the top performing public school in the 6A classification is a fitting end to Jordan, Clements and Fincher's high school careers.
"It was a great way to go out," Sampson said. "You can't ask for a group of seniors to have a better farewell than what those boys wrote for themselves."
This season was a great way for Sampson to go out, too. He is retiring from coaching high school swimming after accepting a navigator's position on an open-ocean racing sailboat.
Sampson said he would remember this team for how it was underestimated and proved doubters wrong. The boys, he said, will return some talent next year under a new head coach, while the girls will enter a new era with another year of valuable experience.
"When the boys got their third place trophy, four of our guys stood up there, and one of the girls from Jesuit told their coach: 'They're really small,'" Sampson said. "Their coach replied: 'When you're that good, you don't need to be big.'"