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St. Helens High coach Christie Orr excited about this season's added depth for boys and girls teams

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Four St. Helens swimmers confer with coach Christie Orr at a meet last season. From left: now-senior Olea Opdahl, senior Audra Lein, junior Maggie Wheeldon and senior Madeline Watt.There is strength in numbers.

That's what has St. Helens High swimming coach Chelsie Orr pumped up about her team for the 2018-19 season.

The Lions squad has grown from 28 swimmers last season to 40.

"I'm excited for the depth we have and excited for some of our top swimmers and the season they will have," Orr says.

The Lions' first dive into the water competitively will be on Friday, when they go to the River City Invitational, 4:15 p.m. at Eisenschmidt Pool. St. Helens, Scappoose, Gladstone, The Dalles, North Marion and Blanchet Catholic are slated to compete.

"We look forward to seeing all our athletes get in for the first time and for them to see what this amazing sport is all about," Orr says.

The Lions' second meet will take place on Dec. 18 against Scappoose, also at Eisenschmidt.

The St. Helens girls team figures to feature senior Olive Owens.

"She will be one to watch in the 100 and 200 freestyle," Orr predicts.

Last season, Owens broke a team record in the 200 free that had stood for 10 years.

"I imagine she will break it again this season," Orr says.

Owens will be looking to return to state in that event.

On the boys side, sophomores Ryan and Jake Maher also are likely to make their presence felt in the Class 5A Northwest Oregon Conference.

"Ryan has been dropping his time in the 50 freestyle — one of the hardest events to drop significant amounts of time," Orr says. "He was swimming around a 25-second 50 free last year and is now splitting 23s in the relays."

Jake Maher specializes in the breaststroke.

"He has seen huge improvements in his 100 breaststroke since last year," Orr says. "He's one to watch in that event. He is almost always getting a personal record whenever he swims it."

The Mahers will be joined by sophomore Nick Brooks and junior Cooper Montgomery on a 400 freestyle relay team that looks to be competitive as well. Brooks is replacing Chase Parkhurst, who graduated, on a foursome that went to the state meet in 2018.

Orr and assistant coach Austin Sharp "have a lot on our plate to get all our new athletes proficient at the strokes, teach diving and flip turns, and work on their endurance and strength," Orr says.

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