St. Helens swimmers ready to compete at NWOC district meet
It's time for the biggest meets of the year and the St. Helens swim teams believe they're ready.
The Lions kick off their participation in the Northwest Oregon Conference district meet with preliminaries at 10 a.m. Friday and continue with championship finals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Parkrose High School.
At stake are berths to the coming Class 5A state meet — set for Feb. 16-17 at Mt. Hood Community College Aquatic Center — for any athletes or relay teams that win events or earn wild-card berths based on their finishing times.
"I expect to see many (personal records) at this year's districts," said St. Helens coach Chelsie Orr. "The team has trained hard all season and recently (began tapering) until the meet Friday. I would expect … that we would do at least as well or better than last year."
That said, Orr and the Lions know what lies ahead, facing competition against much larger teams such as Hillsboro, La Salle and Wilsonville.
"Being one of the smallest teams swimming in 5A, (going) up against teams like Hillsboro, La Salle and Wilsonville who dominate swimming, proves to be a challenge, but we are up for it," said Orr, whose boys took fourth at district a year ago and the Lion girls fifth.
The Lions will be led at this year's district meet by seniors Trinyty Howard and Chase Parkhurst, with Howard back after qualifying for the 2017 state meet in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races, while Parkhurst returns after swimming at state in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.
"I would not be surprised to see them (qualify for state) again," Orr said. "We have a handful of potential event winners and state qualifiers."
In addition to Howard and Parkhurst, Orr said she expects the boys 200 medley relay team of Ryan Maher, Jake Maher, Nick Brooks and Parkhurst to contend for a state berth, along with junior Olive Owens in the 100 and 200 freestyle races.
After a regular season that saw St. Helens' girls post a 4-3 regular season record and the boys a 2-5 mark — a campaign which included a tough two-loss stretch that marked the low point of the year — the Lions are back and ready to take their best shots at the NWOC's best teams.
"After suffering two straight losses in a row … we were at a low point," Orr recalled. "Both the teams we swam had the depth we don't — 50 and 70+ swimmers to our 28 — (but) we came back from that and we are ending the season strong."