Scappoose swim kicks off season
The Scappoose High School swim team has one final year with Will Blair on the team. Before the team started this season, the senior was already the school's all-time most-decorated swimmer.
"If you think he's satisfied, you don't know Will Blair," coach Dave Richmond said.
Blair has five school records and 12 state medals.
In the fall, Blair will head to Oregon State University to study computer and electrical engineering. Oregon State doesn't have a college team, so Blair's competitive days may be over.
Though the season is shorter than usual and won't have any state competition, Blair is determined to make the most of his final season.
"I'm just excited to compete at all this year," Blair said.
For some sports, like cross-country or golf, the places where athletes practice have still been accessible during the pandemic. But pools — like Eisenschmidt Pool in St. Helens, where Scappoose's team practices — have been closed or operating at limited capacities for much of the past year.
"I try to stay in shape other ways, but nothing really compared to swimming. I lost a lot of my speed over the season, but I should be back in shape for the meets," Blair said before the team's first meet of the season.
At the May 24 meet against Wilsonville, Blair took wins in the individual medley and butterfly, "and looks really strong already for limited practicing," Richmond said.
Richmond credits Blair with leading the team to its first district title in school history as a sophomore in 2019, when Scappoose had just moved up to the 5A classification. Blair was named the 2019 Northwest Oregon Conference Swimmer of the Year that season.
"He inspired his teammates to pull off the incredible by knocking off a strong returning champion Parkrose team looking for back to back titles. His unexpected 100-yard free victory over a senior Parkrose swimmer with a two-second personal record is etched into everyone's memory who witnessed it," Richmond said.
Blair said that race was one of his favorites in the past three years, along with a 400-yard freestyle relay his freshman year, when the team pulled off an unexpected win against previously unbeaten Newport, the regional champion and state favorite.
"To this day, it is the best relay race I have ever witnessed," Richmond said.
Blair lives in Prescott but chose to attend Scappoose High School for freshman year, in part because his best friend and fellow swimmer, Nash Wilson, was already a sophomore at the school.
"His decision to enroll at Scappoose helped skyrocket the success of the boy's program to unprecedented levels," Richmond said.
Blair joined Scappoose with years of club experience under his belt. Richmond said that experienced swimmers can sometimes be resistant to change and coaching, but Blair was "teachable and more than willing to listen to instruction."
"I cannot say enough about Blair's unselfishness and desire to win as a team," Richmond said.
In 2018, Blair volunteered to take a less glamorous spot in a relay, which Richmond said paid off at the state meet in 2020, when the relay team made the state finals and took third place with the best performance in Columbia County history.
Blair missed finals for his two individual races last season, adding to the disappointment of ending with a season with no state competition.
"I was hoping to get some sort of redemption and go to state, win a couple more medals. But I'm just excited to compete at all this year. While disappointing, you know, it is what it is, and we've just got to move forward with everything. We still get to compete, and that's the good thing," Blair said.
The team lost a large group of swimmers who graduated last year, leaving Blair as one of few seniors finishing this year.
"I feel safe with the swim team in the hands of our younger guys," Blair said, "but it's sad to leave the sport of swimming, and be not completely done with the sport, but probably done with competing."
At the May 24 meet, the girls team beat Wilsonville 94-32, Scappoose High School swim coach David Richmond said.
The boys team lost to Wilsonville 70-61.
The team's next meet was scheduled for Thursday, May 27, against St. Helens, after the Spotlight's press deadline.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.