Photo by Ray Rodriguez
The Dalles swim team had three individuals and a relay team qualify for state action in Saturday’s Columbia River Conference event in Hood River. The swimmers in the photo are, left to right, back row, Rowan Hopkins, Jordan McGuirk, Cory Cameron, Jaeden Biehn, Andy Clifford, Emily Peterson, Emily Nolasco and Peter Cardosi. Front row, from left, Molly Nelson, Hannah Weeks, Natalie Varland, Maya Hernandez and Caleb Wild. Not pictured is Max McClennan.
HOOD RIVER – Molly Nelson and Andy Clifford get another shot at state.
Natalie Varland, Maya Hernandez and Hannah Weeks finally have their chance to shine on the biggest stage as well.
Nelson, Clifford and Varland qualified as individuals and the girls’ 200-yard Medley Relay team set a season-best time to earn state berths at Saturday’s Columbia River Conference District Swim Meet held at the Hood River Aquatic Center.
With a capacity crowd fueling the ambiance of the competition, Nelson was energized to do well, and thereby extend her season another week.
“It was kind of intense. I was really nervous, but I was also excited,” Nelson said. “There was just a really good buzz here today, everybody was supporting each other and everybody was cheering for each other and I think I just fed off of that. That is what gave me that little extra push to set those times and I am really excited about what I was able to do today. I was able to push myself to limits I have never been before, so it is good.”
In her 100-yard Backstroke, Nelson posted a personal-record time of 1:07.28, as she beat her next opponent, Hood River’s Alea McCarthy by more than seven seconds (1:14.95).
In the 100-yard Breaststroke, Varland had lap times of 35.14 and 40.02 for a final mark of 1:15.16, besting her next opponent, MaKayla Lee, of Pendleton, who ended up in second place with a 1:20.27.
The relay team of Nelson, Varland, Hernandez and Weeks had splits of 32.72, 34.11, 32.32 and 31.60 for a combined time of two minutes and 10.75 seconds, a mark that was nearly eight seconds better than Pendleton (2:18.17).
“I am really excited and I am also really proud of our relay team. We all worked really hard to make it here,” said Hernandez. “When we won, it was kind of unexpected because our relay time was from last year and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to beat that time, but we did, so it is really exciting for all of us. It was an unexpected surprise.”
Andy Clifford, a senior, qualified as a wild card in the 200 IM, as he put up a time of 2:12.85, less than a second off winner David Walker, of Hood River (2:11.90), so he gets one final trip to state.
“He really deserved to have a final swim at state to close out his high school career,” said TD head coach Shea Macnab.
Peter Cardosi was fourth in the 200-yard Freestyle with a time of 2:20.26, Clifford also had second-place in the 100-yard Freestyle with a time of 52.37, just behind Jon Jennings, of Pendleton, who set a district record of 50.38.
The boys’ 200-yard Freestyle relay team of Clifford, Cardosi, Jordan McGuirk and Max McClennan had a time of 1:46.50 for second place.
Those times gave the boys’ team 43 points for fourth place in the standings, behind district champion, Pendleton (233). Hermiston came in second place with 102 points and Hood River Valley had 84 points to secure third place.
“The boys gave it all we had. I wish more of us could have gone to state,” Clifford said. “This league is really tough. You really need to be on your game to compete. It just didn’t happen for some of us today. It doesn’t matter though. I am proud of all of them.”
Also on the girls’ side, Weeks was third in the 50-yard Freestyle in a time of 27.91, Jaeden Biehn was seventh in the same event at 30.83.
Weeks was also third in the 100-yard Butterfly at 1:20.01, Varland was fourth in the 100-yard Freestyle in 1:07.09, and Weeks was third in the 100-yard Butterfly at 1:20.79.
The girls’ 200-yard Relay team of Nelson, Hernandez, Varland and Weeks placed third with a mark of 2:02.02, 10 seconds behind Hood River Valley (1:50.24).
“Going to state this time is really special, because we are going in the medley relay and that is something new, especially because we haven’t had this relay combination before,” Nelson said. “It is great to have a new group of girls, who are all really close, get to experience state. I think it is going to be fun. I am just happy for the other girls. They have worked so hard and they deserve it.”
Hood River Valley’s girls won the district crown with 193 points, inching past second-place Pendleton (175).
The Dalles had 72 points for third place, and Hermiston came in fourth (59).
While the state experience is going to be new for three of the relay participants, Hernandez said there is an aspect of being happy to be there, but she admitted that the goal is still to win.
The field is going to be much tougher than what was in Hood River, but if things go well and the swimmers put up top times, anything can happen.
“I think more so, we are excited to get this opportunity to make it to state,” Hernandez said. “Of course, we are going to try our hardest and see how far we can make it. But, yeah, we are going to state with an open mind, so we are excited to be there.”
The OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires 2016 Swimming State Championships take place at 11 a.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Mount Hood Community College Aquatic Center in Gresham.