The two most recognizable faces may be gone, but as the 2002-03 swimming season approaches, the semi-anonymous members of the HRV swim team are hoping for a few strokes of genius as they begin Intermountain Conference competition.
Four-year star Oliver Burton and 100 backstroke state champion Caitlyn Shortt are no longer here, but that doesn’t mean the remaining members of the team plan to let any perceived disadvantages slow them down.
“Every meet, you go out to win all your events,” said senior freestyler Erik Hidle. “State is the ultimate goal, and to get there, you have to be focused on that goal at every meet.”
Hidle is one of three returning state qualifiers for the boys team, which brings back every major contributor besides Burton. Hidle joins seniors Sean Jennings and Cody MacMillan, and junior Henry Burton on a determined 200 medley relay team that will do whatever it can to improve on last year’s 11th place state finish.
“Once you’ve been to state, you want to go back,” Hidle said. “It’s something we all look forward to, and all the seniors know it’s their last chance.”
Hidle said that the individual strokes on the relay team haven’t yet been determined, but the most likely configuration would be MacMillan doing backstroke, Burton fly, Jennings breast, and Hidle free.
“By focusing on our individual strokes in every meet, it makes the relay team stronger,” he explained. “Once we figure out who is the strongest at each stroke, we can start to fine-tune things a bit.”
First-year head coach Jane Nichols is excited about the possibility of helping the team reach its state goals.
“Those four have been our big guns so far,” said Nichols, who coached high-school swimming in California from 1984-86. “It will be interesting to see what they can do together once we get into some competitions.”
Five more swimmers on the boys roster are hoping to make their mark during the Eagles’ first year in the IMC. Senior Daniel Chance and sophomores Adam Brown, Chris Jennings, Jess Jennings and Louis DeSitter will all be factors for the Eagles if they hope to compete in the new conference.
“The challenge for me as a coach will be to keep them improving on their times,” Nichols said. “I’m still trying to get the kids to the point where they’re ready for the first meet.”
Nichols and her assistant, Dr. Mike Pendleton, hope to evaluate how far the team has to go when it competes in the first meet of the season — a non-conference tilt at Reynolds High School in Portland.
“I’ve been elated so far with the effort and the attitude of each one of these kids,” Nichols said. “They pay attention well and really want to learn. As a first-year coach, that is very much appreciated.”
Nichols and Pendleton may have some growing pains ahead of them this year with the girls team, which returns just three swimmers: sophomore Kelsey Hale, junior Elsie Denton, and senior Joyce Yang.
But, despite the graduations of three swimmers (Rachel Culpepper, Emily Baldwin and Kelsey Shortt) and the defections of two more (Caitlyn Shortt and Ladora Mitchell), the team has benefitted from a youth revival movement.
Local youth swim team members Nicole Shames, Kendra Mohar and Aerial MacMillan lead a strong freshman class that also includes Barbara Holmes and Danielle Miller.
HRV’s first home meet is The Dalles Invitational on Jan. 25. They also host Pendleton on Feb. 4.