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North Marion senior wins two titles and sets a 4A/3A/2A/1A record at swimming championships

COURTESY OF JEFF BEMROSE - The North Marion swim team displays their medals after placing in five events at Saturdays state championship meet. From left: Sebastian Powers-Leach, Conner Lader, Sami Pine, Alessia Iacomelli, Noah Norris, Wesley Norris and Cole Durst.North Marion head swimming coach Jeff Bemrose knew the Huskies had the potential to bring a championship-caliber team to the pool, just not in his first season with the team.

But the Huskies defied preseason expectations this past weekend at the 2016 4A/3A/2A/1A State Swimming Championships, placing fifth in the boys competition behind a pair of state championship performances from senior Noah Norris.

“This is much better than I expected coming into the season,” Bemrose said. “I expected I’d have to build up to this in three or four years.”

Norris had an incredible day in the pool at Mount Hood Community College on Saturday. The senior picked up state titles in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races, setting a 4A/3A/2A/1A record in the 100 while leading a North Marion team that medaled in all six events it qualified for at the state competition.

Norris cruised to a victory in the 50, winning the preliminary heat with a school-record time of 20.90 seconds. The second day was much like the first, with Norris clocking in at 21.05 to take the championship by one second over runner-up Bryce Ebel of La Grande High School.

The 100 was a much more contested race for Norris, who was matched up against a familiar opponent in Catlin Gabel’s Tristan Furnary.

“(Norris) and Tristan both swim club and they’ve swam against each other for years,” Bemrose said. “Tristan had a nice stroke and we knew he’d have a nice race. He was looking really good this year.”

Norris beat out Furnary by more than two seconds in the preliminary race, but the finals were another story. The two rivals were placed in adjacent lanes for Saturday’s championship race, and the two made it a race to remember.

Norris barely edged out Furnary, needing a record-breaking performance to do so. Norris finished the race in 45.24, breaking the state 4A/3A/2A/1A record of 45.35 in the process. And he needed every last hundredth of a second to do so, with Furnary finishing just behind with a time of 45.37.

“(Norris) could see Tristan the whole way,” Bemrose said. “Every time he turned to take a breath he could see him. It was one of the best races I’ve ever seen.”

It was the second consecutive year that Norris won the state title in the 50 and 100, having done so at the 5A level for the Wilsonville Wildcats in 2015 as a junior. Norris and his younger brother, sophomore Wesley Norris, transferred to North Marion for the 2015-16 school year and had an immediate impact for the Bemrose and the swim program.

“At the beginning of the year with Noah and Wesley on board, we knew we’d have some great opportunities and we encouraged the boys to buckle down and make the best of it,” Bemrose said.

That included not just Noah and Wesley, but the entire boys team, who came together around the program’s relay teams that placed third and fifth, respectively, in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle finals.

“The relays did really well,” Bemrose said. “I was really proud of all the kids. They swam their hearts out and it turned out like we hoped. Everyone was peaking at districts and state.”

The 200 freestyle team of the Norris brothers, Cole Durst and Conner Lader finished second in the preliminaries in a time of 1:32.63 and went on to place third overall in the finals with a time of 1:32.91. The medley team of Noah Norris, Wesley Norris, Lader and Sebastian Powers-Leach finished fifth with a time of 1:46.59.

The team’s final medalist, Wesley Norris, just missed out on a state championship performance, finishing second in the 100 butterfly with a time of 52.91, behind Ebel’s championship time of 51.12.

He followed with a sixth-place finish in the 100 backstroke in 57.30, barely missing out on his older brother’s school record of 56.17.

“We were really happy with everybody’s performances this year,” Bemrose said. “It was a change of coaching and style for a lot of the kids, and they really embraced it.”

Phil Hawkins covers sports and the city of Gervais. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1194.

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