A month from now, the Philomath High School swim teams will be competing in the district meet with hopes of qualifying for state. Several Warrior athletes should be in the mix for qualifying, including a group of seniors with a final chance to reach their competitive goals.
A collection of photos from Philomath High’s home meet on Tuesday against Stayton and Blanchet Catholic.
The Warriors will get a little taste of the atmosphere this Saturday at the annual District Sprint Meet — a competitive gathering that takes place in the same pool as districts in Albany.
“I’m excited for it,” PHS coach Iliana Kaiser said Tuesday following a small meet against Stayton and Blanchet Catholic at Clemens Community Pool. “I think it’ll be a nice indicator of how districts is going to go and it’ll give them a little reality check of how those big meets are.”
As Kaiser indicated, Philomath will enter this weekend with an opportunity to test its top swimmers in a more competitive meet. Up to this point in the season, the Warriors have competed in only one meet that featured more than only one or two other schools. Philomath typically dominates those small meets behind strong numbers — earning points by filling out the entry sheet.
Talking about the District Sprint Meet, Kaiser said, “There are some faster kids in there, so they have to realize that they have to work hard the next couple of weeks of the regular season and that’ll be the pool where they’ll swim at districts, so we’ll at least be comfortable with the area.”
Based on times seen in 4A/3A/2A/1A, PHS seniors Carrson Hirte and Allison Neelands are both among the top swimmers. Heading into this week, Kaiser said Hirte was first in the 100-yard backstroke, second in the 100 freestyle and first in the 50 freestyle. Neelands ranked in the top 20 in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle.
In Tuesday’s home appearance, the boys won a dual while the girls finished second out of three teams competing. In the boys’ competition, the Warriors racked up 109 points to Blanchet Catholic’s 52. For the girls, Stayton finished with 86.5 points to edge Philomath’s 85 with Blanchet a distant third with 40.5.
“Their techniques are getting a lot better, really good, now that they realize that we know what we’re talking about, they’re like, ‘oh, you told us to do this and we got better,’” Kaiser laughed, a reference to the fact that she and assistant coach Hannah Lee are not much older than the high school students themselves.
In the boys’ portion of the meet, Philomath won eight of the 10 events (there were no entries in the 200 individual medley) with strong performances by its seniors. Hirte and Kellen Houchin each won two events and Micah Matthews had a victory as well.
Matthews, who got a later start to the season than his teammates because of injury, won the 50 freestyle in 27.50 seconds, a margin of 1.5 seconds over the runner-up — freshman teammate Cameron McLennan. Junior Henry Katsikis wasn’t far back in third to give the Warriors a 1-2-3 showing in the sprint.
Houchin had only one competitor to swim against in the 100 butterfly and won easily with a time of 1:08.03. He later won the 100 breaststroke in 1:12.56 — six of the seven entries were Warriors and they took the top six spots in the final results.
Hirte was unchallenged in his two individual wins with times of 52.53 in the 100 freestyle and 57.68 in the 100 backstroke. His margins of victory were nearly 15 seconds in the 100 free and just over 27 seconds in the 100 back.
Philomath beat Blanchet in all three relay races. The 200 medley relay won with a time of 2:02.90 with Katsikis, Houchin, McLennan and Hirte. The 200 freestyle relay of McLennan, Katsikis, Emmitt Gaskey and Houchin won in 1:54.81. And the winning 400 freestyle relay of Hirte, Gaskey, Marshall Morrison and Matthews touched in 4:20.06.
The girls won three events with freshman Kathleen Donovan, sophomore Kyah Weeber and 200 freestyle relay. Donovan beat a pair of Blanchet girls in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:56.15. Weeber was first over five others in the 500 freestyle in 6:37.31, beating the runner-up from Stayton by 27.72 seconds.
The 200 freestyle relay finished nearly 7-1/2 seconds ahead of Stayton with a time of 2:05.13. Senior Emma Holden, Neelands, sophomore Kateri Pindell and Weeber swam legs.
Philomath is scheduled to compete in a small meet at Newport on Friday before heading to the sprint meet on Saturday.