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Lions show well at the Northwest Oregon Conference district championship meet

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - St. Helens junior Jake Maher won the 100-yard breaststroke at the Northwest Oregon District conference championship meet.

Spoiling Scappoose's chance at another first place at the Northwest Oregon Conference district title was not St. Helens' primary ambition.

But when Jake and Ryan Maher, Nick Brooks and Isaac Reed started out the NWOC district meet with a photo finish first place in the 200-yard medley relay on Feb. 15 at Parkrose High School, beating the Indians by a hair, it started a fantastic day filled with state qualifiers and personal bests. Silencing their Seven Mile War rival, at least for one race after getting beat during the regular season, was just icing on the cake.

The 200-medley swam a 1:45.1 to take first overall for the Lions. Then, Brooks qualified for the Class 5A state championship meet in the 100-yard backstroke, Ryan Maher clinched a state berth in the 200 free after taking second place and Jake Maher made it in the 100 breastroke after taking home the district title. Jake Maher also made the state meet in the 200 individual medley as well. The Lion boys placed fifth overall with 139 points and the girls placed fifth with 141 points.

The 200 medley relay broke a school record in the preliminaries and is seeded sixth in the Class 5A preliminaries on Friday. St. Helens head coach Chelsie Orr expects Scappoose will "be out for revenge". The 5A state meet prelims are Friday at 9 a.m. at Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center. The 'A' finals are back at THAC beginning at 8:15 a.m.

"I am hopeful they can make it to the second day of competition," Orr said. "It has been at least seven years since St Helens has had anyone qualify for the second day so any of these events making it would be huge."

Ryan Maher broke his own 100 fly record by more than a second and Jake Maher broke his own 100 breaststroke record as well.

"We were definitely impressed with them both days," Orr said. "I think one of the things that stuck out was the way they came together as a relay to swim so fast and break a school record in prelims. We saw a lot of best times with all of the guys. Overall with the whole team, 75 percent of the swims on Friday in the prelims were new personal records which is amazing."

Orr said Brooks has worked hard as the leader in the lane with the most experienced swimmers on the Lion team.

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - St. Helens standout Molly Wheeldon and the Lions took fifth at the Northwest Oregon District conference championship meet last week. "He is always listening to anything (assistant coach) Jared (Plahn) or I ask him to work on or change," Orr said. "Making state in an individual event has been a goal of his and I am so proud of him for achieving that."

The Mahers were top qualifiers in three of their four individual events. Jake Maher won the breastroke by almost five seconds.

"They have always worked so hard but not always been in that top spot on the second day," Orr said. "They both had amazing swims. They continue to be very humble boys, despite how successful they are and how much they are in the spotlight."

The Lions' girls' team is still young. St. Helens graduated so many experienced swimmers last year and this team was in a whole different spot according to Orr. This year was all about "growth and the girls did just that". In three months, Orr had the girls learn all four strokes and freshman Jessica Nasshahn, who was brand new to swimming, swam the 100 breaststroke at districts.

"For someone to learn the technique and build up the endurance and confidence for that event in such a short time is impressive," Orr said.

St. Helens' 400-yard freestyle relay was made up of freshmen and sophomores whose 100 freestyle splits were as fast as the Lion seniors from last year, according to Orr. Freshmen Kathryn Nelson and Lily Janke and sophomores Katie Pletsch and Rachel Nasshahn will all be back next year after taking fifth at districts.

"The future is bright for our girls' team as we build on what we have started this season and add more girls to the team next year," Orr said

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