PHS senior Allison Neelands swam to second place in the 500-yard freestyle. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

ALBANY — Now the waiting begins.

Philomath High’s girls swim team placed in several events at Saturday’s Special District 4 meet at Albany Community Pool to finish third in the final standings behind only Sweet Home and Stayton and ahead of nine other schools.

Warriors senior leaving his mark on swimming program

ALBANY — Glancing up at the electronic scoreboard after finishing the 100-yard backstroke on Saturday, Philomath High’s Carrson Hirte reacted to his time by slapping the water hard. But the Warriors senior was not angry. It was a moment of excitement after discovering that he had bettered his own school record in the 100-yard backstroke…

Although there were no individual district champions to automatically qualify for the state, Philomath does have a handful of strong candidates to earn the trip to Beaverton for the Feb. 17-18 season finale at Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center. Any remaining open lanes will be filled by the next fastest times from the four district meets for a total of 12 participants.

The Oregon School Activities Association will seed the state championship meet on Sunday with those entries posted no later than 6 p.m.

Senior Allison Neelands is a strong candidate to make it in the 500-yard freestyle and could also make it in the 200 freestyle.

“In the 200 free, I did really good, I hit my PR from yesterday, which is what I was going for,” Neelands said after placing third in 2:13.75. “Even after our 200 medley got DQ’d, I knew I had to step up and finish the race even though I was upset.”

Yes, there was the disqualification of the team’s 200 medley relay, which came into finals with the fourth-best time out of Friday’s preliminaries and had an outside shot at getting to state.

Kyah Weeber swims to fourth place in the 200 IM. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“It was such a fun meet,” PHS coach Iliana Kaiser said. “We had a couple of DQs for some funky things that happened during races but everybody else had amazing times.”

Neelands certainly had a fun time with that 200 free but also in the meet’s longest race.

“In my 500, I was really proud that I dropped 2 seconds off my time yesterday and I got second place behind the girl who was 10 seconds faster than me and I think that’s pretty good,” said Neelands, who came in with a time of 6:12.04 — about 9-1/2 seconds behind the winner.

Kaiser said she’s seen Neelands grow as a swimmer over the past two seasons, especially in the 200 freestyle by dropping seven to eight seconds off her time. In the 500 free, she has club experience and opted to give the event a try in high school meets.

“I like the longer distances — I’m weird like that,” she said. “I like to push myself harder in a freestyle event because I can’t really do any other strokes so freestyle is definitely where I need to work harder.”

Among the other top individual performances, sophomore Kyah Weeber placed fourth in the 200 IM with a time of 2:37.94 and fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:19.78. Those times could put her in contention for state qualification depending on how the other districts came out.

Philomath’s 200 freestyle relay might have a shot at state as well with its time of 1:57.10, which got them third place. Neelands, junior Madison Juhl, freshman Kathleen Donovan and Weeber swam on the relay.

Kathleen Donovan swims the backstroke during her fifth-place showing in the 200 IM. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Other top six placewinners for PHS on Saturday included Donovan’s fifth place in the 200 IM (2:49.12) and sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:17.00) and Juhl’s fifth in the 50 freestyle (29.98).

At the conclusion of the competition, the PHS seniors jumped into the pool in costume as part of the district meet’s “Senior Swim.”

“I’ve been soaking up everything I can and am trying not to cry and not be too upset,” said Neelands, who is one of seven seniors on the roster. “I just try to focus on right now — what we’re doing right now.”

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.