November 26, 2005
With 44 members, this season’s Hood River Valley High School swim team is the biggest it has been in years. And the squad, coached by Jane Nichols and Mike Pendleton, is looking strong, as they are already swimming 3,500-4,000 meters each practice, which is ahead of last year’s early-season progress.
Led by boys’ captains Jon Wadman and Zed Debbaut, both juniors, and three senior girls’ captains, Kendra Mohar, Nicole Shames and Ariel MacMillan, the team is working hard for their first meet against The Dalles-Wahtonka on Dec. 3.
“We’re working to lengthen and strengthen muscles and improve our endurance and mental toughness,” said Nichols. “We’re working on all around building of the body so it can respond — mentally and physically — when required to go fast.”
With only five freshmen and seven seniors on the team, 32 swimmers are either sophomores or juniors, which is reason for optimism about the near-future of the program.
“This year, I expect us individually to do well,” said Nichols. “But many of our better swimmers seem to have a lot on their plates with other activities. That will take time away from swimming … It’s going to depend on what their priorities are later in the season.”
The team’s eight-meet season will culminate with the district meet, which will be in Hood River this year. Although individual meets are important, the true test is districts because it is the only meet at which swimmers can qualify for state.
“We’re basically preparing for districts all season long,” said Nichols.
The top swimmer in each event at districts automatically qualifies for state. After that, only swimmers who beat pre-determined “state times” at districts qualify. The team will be pushing for a retribution of sorts, as the boys relay team was denied a trip to state by a hundredth of a second. They graduated only six seniors last season, including Kelsey Hale, who is now swimming for Eureka College in Illinois.
The Intermountain Conference is home to two of the state’s top 4A teams, Bend and Summit high schools. According to Nichols, their success comes from high numbers of year-round swimmers. For many teams, including Hood River, most of their swimmers are multi-sport athletes that hit the pool only a few months of the year. That trend is slowly changing for the Eagles, however, as young, more involved club swimmers are feeding into the high school program.
Nichols hesitates to make predictions about individual swimmers this early in the season.
“Until you get them in the water at a meet, swimming against others and in front of their friends and a crowd, you never know,” she said. “I do know, the kids will be happy with what they do and we will provide them with the tools they need to do the best they can do.”