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State an asset for young swimmers

By ADAM LAPIERRE

News staff writer

February 22, 2006

The Hood River Valley High School swim team sent five boys to the state meet this weekend in Corvallis. The squad of four sophomores — Peter Debbaut, Henry Hunt, Cory Coxen and Kory Harding (alternate) — and one junior — Zed Debbaut — qualified by winning the 200 freestyle relay at last weekend’s Intermountain Conference (IMC) district meet. Individually, Zed Debbaut also qualified for the 50 freestyle relay and the 100 breaststroke.

Friday’s preliminary round of the meet eliminates a large chunk of the field, leaving only the top 12 in each event to swim in the finals. Although the Eagles’ relay team shaved two seconds off its time from districts, they were eliminated in the prelim round.

Zed Debbaut pushed through Friday’s do-or-die pressure to advance to Saturday’s B-finals of both of his events, which guaranteed him a state finish between seventh and twelfth place. His 1:02.06 100 breaststroke was good enough for 9th place, and his :22.20 freestyle time gave him 8th.

“The relay team did great,” said Coach Jane Nichols. “A two-second improvement means each swimmer took off a half a second, which is a huge deal for that short of a race.”

Although he placed in both of his individual events, Debbaut was, according to Nichols, fairly disappointed with how he swam.

“Zed did well,” she said. “But he had trouble with his turns. He swam his best time ever in his leg of the relay, but he came back and jammed some turns in the breaststroke.”

A big part of top-level prep swimming is mental. On the starting blocks, swimmers have to clear their minds. They have to focus, eliminate distractions and concentrate on swimming their best. And at state, distractions are abundant. From reporters armed with long-lensed digitals and parents with video cameras to whining little brothers, gawking girlfriends, race officials, coaches and fellow competitors, standing on the starting block with a sound mind is a test in itself.

“Until you experience it at that level, there’s nothing that prepares you for it,” Nichols said. “It’s a mind game, and it’s hard to prepare kids to understand what they’re going to get into. The relay team did well; I think they understood the pressure. Plus it was the four of them and there’s strength in numbers.”

Qualifying for state was an accomplishment for the boys, and taking eighth and ninth place in the state is an achievement worth noting. But perhaps the most valuable notion to take away from the meet is the fact that all five of the boys can return to the pool with the invaluable experience of having been in the big show, of having been on the blocks with the distraction and the pressure, of having felt the nerves and the butterflies in their stomachs, and, most importantly, of overcoming it all and diving head first into the biggest event in the state.

“We always talk to our kids after they swim,” Nichols said. “I asked Zed, are you angry? He said yes. I asked, are you frustrated? He said yes. And I said, remember this feeling. Remember how it feels and remember that you never want to feel it again.”

As with all sports, a tough loss is often more of a learning experience and more motivating than a win.

Top 4A boys’ teams:

1st Jesuit

2nd Westview

2rd Tualatin

4th David Douglas

5th Crescent Valley

Top 4A girls’ teams:

1st Westview

2nd Tualatin

3rd Crescent Valley

4th McNary

5th Sunset

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