Outstanding swimmers named at annual Husky swim dessert

Seniors Jeff Ecker and Nicole Starha were named outstanding upperclassmen while Dani Birky and Jeff Stratman took outstanding underclassmen awards at the Husky swimming dessert held Tuesday evening.

Coach Doug Peargin said the squads enjoyed a fine season overall and were bolstered by outstanding support from parents.

“We had perhaps more parental help than we’ve ever had,” Coach Peargin said.

He also thanked Coach Bruce West and Coach Rene Kirkland for their combined 27 years of service to the program.

“They give so much for so long, I couldn’t do it without them,” Coach Peargin said. “And they don’t get paid a cent. They do it because they love the kids.”

Coach Peargin said the squads showed outstanding improvement as the season progressed.

“I’d say these guys improved as much or more than any team in the last eight or nine years,” Coach Peargin said. “They really stepped up in the big meets.”

Husky swimming is divided into three seasons. From the opening day until Christmas is spent finding the right strokes for each athlete.

Christmas break is spent putting in thousands of yards.

From Christmas to the district meet is spent “sharpening the sword”. We get in more yardage, get the speeds up and then take our best shot at the district meet,” Coach Peargin said.

The Huskies had an outstanding district meet with the boys squad knocking off power house Junction City for the meet title. The two squads sent a combined total of 12 to the state meet.

“In any race over 100 yards, other teams fear us,” Coach Peargin said. “They know we have outworked them for months.”

Coach Peargin said there are three ways to earn a varsity swimming letter.

An athlete can have perfect attendance. That means never being late, or missing a practice or meet or leaving early. “Kids think this is easy but it’s really a very hard thing to do. Only one percent make it.”

A swimmer can earn 100 points during the regular season. That would be the equivalent of taking three third place finishes in every meet.

The fourth is to place in the top 12 at the district meet.

The Husky girls squad started with 13 athletes but quickly dropped to six. Even with such few in number, the girls finished in the Top 10% of the state academically and placed sixth at the district meet.

“We graduated nine last year,” Coach Peargin said. “We only had three girls with any swimming background. All season long we were ranked 11th of 11 district teams and we stepped up and finished sixth. I was extremely proud of these girls.”

Letter winners included Amber Larsen, third year; Mia Miyashita, Katie Jones, Dani Birky, Anne Helfrich and four year letterman Nicole Starha.

Starha placed in four events at the district meet and qualified for the state meet in three events.

“She has been a mainstay for this squad,” Coach Peargin said.

The boys squad was ranked third early in the year then dropped to eighth.

“At state, these guy really stepped up and did the job,” Coach Peargin said.

“Every boy placed at the district meet. On paper, we couldn’t compete with Junction City. We see sawed with them all season.” Coach Peargin said. “But, at state, we placed fourth out of 44 teams. Our improvement was phenomenal.”

Four year letter winners included Frank Coulter, Chris Burford, Chris Bate and Jeff Ecker.

Ecker qualified for four events at state, took second in the 100 backstroke and won the 200 freestyle championship.

“He scored the most points on the team and was real team leader for us,” Coach Peargin said.

Sean Martin was the lone three year letter winner and was the district 500 champion.

Second year letter winners were Brandon Caswell, John Lovik and Jeff Stratman, whose improvement in the 500 in the last three meets of the season was exceptional.

First year letters went to James Davis, Andrew Holmes, Anthony Erstgaard, Larry Coulter and Jeppe Hjørngaard a foreign exchange student.

“You know, every year it’s very hard when we lose good people to graduation,” Coach Peargin said. “We spend so much time together. They do it because of the love of the sport and the people they’re with. Their hard work and perseverance will stay with them the rest of their life. I guarantee you, the time you spent in our program will make you tougher people in life. It’s a lot of work.”