The Scappoose High School girls swim team came out of the season undefeated, winning all five meets in the short season, making the team Northwest Oregon Conference dual meet champions.
Despite the unusual year, which has seen low turnout for many high school athletic teams, the girls team had 16 swimmers, which coach David Richmond said is in the normal range.
The young team graduated just three seniors, including captain Lyla Dubois.
Dubois said that in a typical season, the first couple meets are focused on getting everyone back into the rhythm — or, for new swimmers, learning the rhythm.
But after winning the first two meets, and then a third, Dubois said, the team realized they had a shot at an undefeated season. The Scappoose girls beat St. Helens 101-68 at the second meet.
In the fourth meet, against La Salle, the team eked out a narrow win.
"No one's going to remember 4-1, but everyone will remember 5-0," Richmond told swimmers as the fifth meet approached.
The team pulled out a final win.
"Going into the season, I definitely did not expect to go undefeated, just because it never happens, and we had a lot of new girls," Dubois said.
An additional meet, an unofficial district meet, is scheduled for Friday, June 25. But that meet wasn't scheduled until June 15, when many swimmers had already committed to summer plans, believing the season would be over.
Richmond said last week that he expected 10 or so girls would make it to the additional meet, but Dubois isn't one of them, having already purchased plane tickets for a family trip.
Dubois said she was disappointed, but she hopes the remaining girls can pull out a win.
"I wish that all the coaches would have got it figured out a little sooner, just so that I didn't plan a trip. But everything's been kind of last-minute this year," Dubois said.
Whether there would be any season at all was unclear earlier in the year, and Dubois said she and boys captain Will Blair thought they might not get the chance to finish out their high school swim careers as captains.
"Senior year, you get your senior night, and that's your last time with your team, and so to miss out on that would have been really disappointing — especially doing it for four years," said Dubois.
She also races motocross, but swimming has been her only high school sport.
Dubois said she almost quit swimming in her sophomore year, because she felt too busy in between school, work and motocross. But Richmond convinced her to stick around.
Dubois is one of the team's star backstrokers. She said her favorite events are the 100 backstroke and the medley relay.
"I like the medley relay because I'm doing backstroke, but it's also with a team, so it's a lot more exciting. … It's exciting when you win by yourself, but to do it together is a better feeling," Dubois said.
Sophomore Emma Jeppesen will have two more seasons on the Scappoose team. Richmond says she's already a standout swimmer.
"She's kind of a bundle of lightning," Richmond said. "By looking at her size, you wouldn't think she's as fast as she is. But she is very powerful. She has excellent technique. She's very determined."
Jeppesen is third on the school's top 10 all-time records in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke events, and fourth in the 100-yard freestyle. Richmond said that Jeppesen is the first swimmer in years to have a solid shot at beating school records set 15 years ago by Anna Heller, who attended Scappoose High School as a freshman and later made it to the Olympic trials.
Richmond said Jeppesen's 100-yard freestyle was the fastest the school has seen in around a decade, clocking in at 58.6 seconds. The school record is 57, just 1.6 seconds faster than Jeppesen, who still has two years to improve.
Jeppesen said that throughout the pandemic, she was swimming whenever she had the chance, traveling to an outdoor pool in Hillsboro even in the winter, and swimming with her club team. The practice has given her an advantage this season, when many swimmers weren't in great shape after not swimming for nearly a year.
"It's kind of crazy, and I'm really excited," Jeppesen said of the possibility of setting new school records.
Though the girls team didn't shrink this year, the boys team had only eight swimmers, roughly half the size of recent years.
Richmond said that in some past years, the full team has had as many as 50 swimmers, but 30 to 35 is ideal. More than that and the pool gets crowded, even by non-pandemic standards.
When a student tests positive for COVID-19, all close contacts must quarantine. In some cases, teams have had to cancel two weeks worth of games or meets, which is roughly one-third of the entire season. The swim team managed to avoid that scenario, with just an instance of one team member having to quarantine because they sat next to a student who tested positive for COVID-19, Dubois said.
Jeppesen said that the COVID-19 restrictions for the team weren't too difficult. Swimmers are expected to wear masks when they're out of the pool.
"It's actually not been too bad — as long as you dry your face off before you put your mask on ... because if your mask is soaking wet, you can't breathe," Jeppesen said.
"I feel like we were all being pretty cautious, just because we knew if one person got it, the whole team would have to quarantine and we wouldn't be able to swim," Dubois said.
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