Girls take third in state swimming

Scott Swanson

The 400 Freestyle Relay is one of the most important events for high school swimmers and Coach Doug Peargin has always put a big emphasis on it as he prepares his teams for district and state meets.

It paid off this year in a district championship for the girls and a team title to boot. Saturday, at the state 4A/3A/2A/1A championships at Mt. Hood Community College, it paid off with a third-place team trophy.

Though the Huskies brought the same can-do attitude to the starting blocks at state that they did at district, they finished two seconds behind La Grande this time around in the relay.

But they were riding a freshman anchor who was swimming her fourth event in two hours, two of which she won. That would be Lucie Davis, who accounted for the bulk of Sweet Home’s points, with wins in both the 200 and the 500 Freestyles.

St. Mary’s won the girls team title, with 48 points, with North Bend second (46) and the Huskies four back at 42. Salem Academy, the other top finisher from the district, waas sixth with 24.

Cottage Grove won the boys title with 52 points, ahead of Newport’s 47. Sweet Home’s boys, who had two finals qualifiers, were 17th with four points.

Peargin, in his 38th year of coaching, said this year’s team left it all in the pool.

“We had lifetime bests in every event for every kid,” he said. “I’ve never had that happen before.”

Davis set two school records in her individual events.

“Everybody swam as well as we can swim,” Peargin said. “Everybody did everything they could do to pull every point we could pull. We held or exceeded (seedings) in every event.”

Davis was the top-seeded swimmer in the 500 after Friday’s prelims, but she was second going into the 200, where she faced North Bend junior Alyssa Bennett. The race got off to a fast start, which had Davis worried, she said.

“I knew that I could beat her, but I didn’t know we were going to go that fast,” Davis said. “I’m one of those people who need to focus on going out fast enough because I can hold. But I was a little worried going out that fast.”

Davis pulled ahead with about 75 yards to go and won by three-quarters of a second, in 1:54.13.

In third was Sweet Home sophomore Makayla Nelson, who set a personal best with a 1:59.59 clocking.

“I was happy,” she said. “I broke two minutes. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Davis and Nelson went one-two in the 500, in 5:04.71 and 5:18.01 respectively.

Davis’ finish was two-hundredths of a second off the state record, which was disappointing for her, but Peargin said he reminded her “you have three more years to do this.”

Nelson hung tight with second-seeded Abbey Felley of La Grande for most of the race, then pulled ahead to win by a second and a half.

“I saw her over there and I was surprised she was so far ahead of me, but then I looked over under water and knew I could run her down,” Nelson said.

Peargin said that although Nelson’s efforts were “overshadowed” by Davis’ performances, “she had a tremendous meet.”

“She would have won the 500 if Lucie hadn’t been swimming.”

In the 400 Freestyle Relay, sophomores Nelson and Esther Gunselman stayed close to La Grande for the first two legs, but freshman Jessica Coats finished her third leg a little over a body length behind La Grande and Davis was unable to close the gap on La Grande’s anchor swimmer.

“I’m exhausted,” Davis said after the race.

Gunselman said the finish was still “pretty happy” for the Huskies.

“It was kind of frustrating that we couldn’t catch the other team, but first in our district and second in state is pretty good,” she said.

Peargin said Gunselman dropped two seconds in her 100-meter freestyle leg personal best.

“All four girls in the 400 Freestyle and the 200 Medley swam lifetime-best splits,” he said. “I’ve never had that.”

Coats, who was so ill Thursday that she couldn’t go to school or practice, was pulled from the 200 Individual Medley, which she had qualified for, and focused instead on the 100 Butterfly, in which she was seeded third going into the final. She did one better, finishing second in 1:01.57.

“I wanted to do what was best for my ’fly, not just my IM,” she said. “It was awesome.”

Peargin said Coats displayed her toughness with that performance.

“She was sick all week long,” he said. “It amazes me that she could be that mentally tough when she was sick, then set a personal best.”

On the boys side, junior Jaegar Howatt finished fourth in the 50 Freestyle, a madhouse event in which most competitors, including Howatt, swim the two laps with a single or no breaths.

BRANDON VASFARET swims to sixth place in the 500 Freestyle.

“That’s faster than I’ve ever gone before,” said Howatt, who is not a year-round club swimmer like many of his competitors. “The only reason I didn’t win is because other people put in more time. I was happy with my swim. This gives me goals for next year. I want to improve my time.”

Peargin noted that Howatt “barely made the top 12 in district last year, then medals in that event,” and credited his progress to pure dedication.

“That’s exceptional and it’s because he changed his work ethic,” he said. “He decided he wanted to do something.”

Freshman Brandon Vasfaret was sixth in the 500 Freestyle after failing to make the final in the 200 IM.

“The 200 IM was really hard,” he said of his first race at state. “I don’t think I was really ready for that one. In the 500 Free I just went for it. I dropped a bunch of time (Friday) and I dropped five seconds (Saturday). I got lifetime best times all weekend. It was a good weekend.”

Peargin said this year’s performance will give next year’s team a springboard, especially with more experienced freshmen expected to join the 2014-15 team on both the girls and boys sides.

“For Coats and Davis, this is the first time they’ve seen that (high school state) meet. I know they’ll be hungrier next year.”

Gunselman said this year’s newcomers made the difference.

“The freshmen who came in were so fast, we were a lot more competitive,” she said. “We weren’t as stressed as last season. It was a lot more fun.”

JAEGER HOWATT, right, dives in for the 50 Freestyle, in which he placed fourth. Photo by Scott Swanson.

Vasfaret said getting a chance to check out the competition this year will help the team prepare for next season.

“I came into the meet not knowing anything,” he said. “Now I know what is going to happen next year.”

Peargin said the season has been “a lot of fun.”

“The kids all improved and ended on a high note. They’re excited about next year.”

2014 4A/3A/2A/1A SWIMMING STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Sweet Home Finals Results

Girls 200 Yard Medley Relay – (1) St Mary’s 1:51.29; (2) North Bend-OCT 1:54.67; (3) Henley 1:54.92; (4) Salem Academy 1:56.10; (5) Sweet Home (Makayla Nelson, Jessica Coats, Esther Gunselman, Lucie Davis) 1:56.43; (6) Marshfield 1:58.61.

Girls 200 Yard Freestyle – (1) Lucie Davis (SH) 1:54.13; (2) Alyssa Bennett, North Bend-OCTm, 1:54.59; (3) Makayla Nelson, Sweet Home, 1:59.59; (4) Jenny Kirschner, Henley,

2:00.56; (5) Becca Haynes, La Grande, 2:02.38; (6) Clara Cannon, Valley Catholic, 2:02.62.

Boys 50 Yard Freestyle – (1) Bryce Ebel, La Grande, 22.65; (2) Andy Pine, North Marion, 23.04; (3) Micah

Leutwyler, Salem Academy, 23.17; (4) Jaegar Howatt, Sweet Home, 23.28; (5) Dylan Tohl, Tillamook, 23.48; (6) Ethan Shepherd, Phoenix, 23.49.

Girls 100 Yard Butterfly – (1) Breanna Sapienza, CascadeChristian, 54.03; (2) Jessica Coats, Sweet Home, 1:01.57; (3) Emma Boles, Salem Academy, 1:02.73; (4) Mary Stewart, Sisters, 1:03.70; (5) Aunika Torres, Henley, 1:04.41; (6) Haley Houghton, Ridgeview, 1:04.49.

Girls 500 Yard Freestyle – (1) Lucie Davis, Sweet Home, 5:04.71; (2) Makayla Nelson, Sweet Home, 5:18.01; (3) Abbey Felley, La Grande, 5:19.66; (4) Becca Haynes, La Grande, 5:29.33; (5) Clara Cannon, Valley Catholic, 5:31.26; (6) Liliana Bennett, North Bend-OCT, 5:39.19.

Boys 500 Yard Freestyle – (1) Karl Stuntzner-Gibson, North Bend-OCT, 4:45.16; (2) Ian Goodwin, Madras,

4:49.12; (3) Ben Settle, Valley Catholic, 4:50.90; (4) Brandon Hunt, Madras, 5:08.26; (5) Keegan Dutto, La Grande, 5:09.15; (6) Brandon Vasfaret, Sweet Home, 5:10.55.

Girls 400 Yard Freestyle Relay – (1) La Grande 3:44.43; (2) Sweet Home ‘’ (Makayla Nelson, Esther Gunselman, Jessica Coats, Lucie Davis), 3:46.48; (3) Marshfield 3:49.88; (4) Salem Academy 3:50.44; (5) Valley Catholic 3:54.21; (6) Henley 3:58.39.

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