GRESHAM — “Districts.”
It’s what every swimmer talks about from the first meet to the last. It’s the exclamation point to a season. A chance to show the rest of the league how far you’ve come. The time to put it all on the line.
And the HRV swim team did exactly that at last weekend’s district meet, each swimmer leaving everything he or she had in the pool to finish the 2002 season on an extremely high note.
HRV finished fourth in the boys standings and fifth among girls’ teams, but it was the camaraderie and individual triumphs that made the meet so special.
“I am so proud of my teammates — all of them,” said senior Rachel Culpepper, who finished fifth in the 100 breast and 10th in the 200 IM. “The squad this year has been awesome and I’ve really enjoyed swimming with all of them.”
Coach Kass Bergstrom was equally proud of the entire team and applauded each individual on a superb effort.
“Nobody on this team ever quits,” she said. “The enthusiasm, teamwork and togetherness of this group is a great testament to the kind of people they are.”
That sense of teamwork showed through in every race last weekend at the Mt. Hood Aquatic Center. When someone was down, the team picked them back up. When someone was up, the team lifted them even higher.
“We were the most enthusiastic team there,” said senior Kelsey Shortt, who finished fifth in the 100 back and 10th in the 500 free. “We got comments about how loud and happy we were after the meet was over.”
Because of that team unity, personal records — even a district record — were falling like leaves from a tree.
Freshman Adam Brown demolished his PR’s in the 50 and 100 free and was selected as an alternate for the state-bound 200 medley relay team of Henry Burton, Cody MacMillan, Oliver Burton and Erik Hidle.
Senior Aarron Phillips dropped nearly 15 seconds off his 500 free time to finish 13th overall. Freshman Louis DeSitter dropped six seconds each in his 100 back and 100 fly events.
Freshman Kelsey Hale dropped nine seconds off her best time in the 500 free. Sophomore Elsie Denton smashed her PR in the 500 free by 20 seconds.
The list goes on: Senior Emily Baldwin broke the 30-second mark in the 50 free for her best-ever time. Culpepper dropped five seconds off her PR in the 200 IM. Henry Burton cracked the 56-second mark to earn a state wild-card berth in the 100 fly.
Daniel Chance swam spirited races in both the 100 fly and 100 back prelims, barely missing the cut in each. MacMillan appeared to have reached peak form with his performances in the 200 IM and 100 free. Hidle swam his heart out in the 50 and 100 free and qualified for finals in the 100.
Junior Chris Fenwick and freshman Spencer Johnisee battled one another to the finish line in the 50 free and each broke his personal record by more than two seconds.
“There were a lot of wonderful memories and stories to tell later on,” Shortt said. “The team was great and I’m going to miss them a lot.”
Unlike Shortt, her sophomore sister, Caitlyn, will have two more district meets before she’s ready to hang up the goggles.
She will also have two more opportunities to improve on her team- and district-record performance in the 200 IM — an effort she will try to surpass at Saturday’s state meet, for which she is seeded No. 1.
“I still get nervous sometimes, but I feel really relaxed this year (at districts),” she said. “I want our team to do well, but right now, I’m focused on state.”
Shortt will also compete in the 100 back, for which she will go in seeded fourth.
“The seeding going in doesn’t mean that much, especially for a swimmer like Caitlyn,” Bergstrom said. “I know, and she knows, she can go even faster.”
Joining Shortt in the state individual competition will be senior Oliver Burton and sophomore Henry Burton. Oliver won both the 50 free and 100 fly going away and enters the state race with enormous confidence.
“Since this was my fourth district meet, I sort of knew what to expect,” he said. “I knew to get to state, I just needed to swim well enough to win. Next week will be different, though. I’m shaving for that one.”
Burton, his brother, MacMillan and Hidle all broke out the razors Monday and will begin Saturday’s 200 medley relay race with just the hair on their heads.
“We really pushed ourselves,” Henry Burton said of the team’s HRV-record swim. “But we all believe we can drop even more at state. We have a really strong district and if we can compete with David Douglas and Barlow, we can compete with anyone in the state.”
Burton will join his brother in the 100 fly Saturday, and although he may be a longshot to win (14th seed), he has a lot to build on for his final two seasons.
“I’ve definitely been thinking about state,” he said, “especially in the fly. (At districts) I wanted to push myself to see what I had.”
The Burtons, Shortt, MacMillan and Hidle begin their quest for state glory Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Mt. Hood Aquatic Center.