by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset boys swimmer Jonathan Zoucha won the 200 IM and helped the Apollos 400 free relay win the final event of the day to beat Jesuit on Thursday.

If there’s anything Jonathan Zoucha can’t stomach more than defeat at the hands of an opponent, it’s losing to Jesuit.

It’s not that Zoucha despises the Crusaders in any peculiar way. The Sunset boys’ standout senior swimmer holds Jesuit in high regard to a point. He acknowledges the Crusaders will be a viable hazard to the Apollos’ state championship four-peat aspirations, as well as the Metro League district title.

Absorbing second place just isn’t in Zoucha’s persona. The multiple-time state champion has the first-place hardware to back that identity, too.

So, with Sunset needing a win in the 400 free relay to beat the Crusaders on Thursday, it comes as no shock that the defending 200 free state champ’s competitive instincts kicked in.

With both packed throngs of Sunset and Jesuit patrons hooting and hollering, and the two rival teams screaming from the side of the cozy Beaverton Swim Center and pool decks, Zoucha peered over at Jesuit’s Sean Calkins and saw the Crusader sophomore held a slight lead.

Small dual meet be damned, Zoucha wasn’t losing, so the senior lengthened his 6-foot-3 frame, kicked into fifth gear and touched the wall before Calkins to give Sunset an 88-82 win. Sunset’s 3:17.62 finish was just ahead of Jesuit’s 3:17.74.

“It came down to who was motivated enough to push through the pain and finish,” said Zoucha. “I’ve wanted to win here ever since I was a freshman, so that’s my ultimate goal. I’m going to push everyone there and try to motivate the team at state to win because I don’t like losing.”

Calkins — a noted distance and backstroke swimmer who competes on the relay teams — said he got caught up in the adrenaline of the crowd, which helped turn on the jets and give Zoucha everything he could manage in the middle lanes of the pool.

“I didn’t think I’d keep up with (Zoucha) that well,” said Calkins. “I just had inspiration from the crowd. That really helped a lot. You don’t hear the crowd when you’re in the water, but beforehand when Anthony Nosack caught up to the guy, I was like, ‘OK, this is my chance. I have to do something.’ The crowd was roaring for that. I had to give them something.”

Racing a state champ and at one point owning a lead over him didn’t hurt the energy level either, Calkins said.

“Ever since I was a little kid, my mom always told me to beat the guy in the lane next to me,” said Calkins. “I’ve always had that mentality when I’m racing. The last 25 (yards) I knew I had to leave it all out there or fail. I just went for it. It was a really good race for me. I’m not much of a sprinter, so it was exciting.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit boys swimmer Sean Calkins won the 500 free and 100 backstroke for the Crusaders, who came within six points of Sunset on Thursday.

Bragging rights

Jesuit senior Ben Buchalski won the 50 free and took second in the 100 breaststroke. Nosack and Jaume Martinez-Calvo tied for first in the 100 free at 50.85. Nosack also won the 100 breaststroke.

“The loud crowd and roar of the crowd...I really get into it,” said freshman Paolo Casas. “You just feed off it. It’s a lot better than crowd than club swimming, that’s for sure.”

Josh Noll (200 free) and Tristan Furnary (100 back) both picked up wins for Sunset, who hope lightening can strike twice more against Jesuit, both at districts and state.

“It’s a big domino effect,” said Zoucha. “We really want to win it because that boosts our confidence going into the next meet and districts, which goes into state. If we don’t bring the confidence out of here and we’re down, that’s going to hurt us later in the season. This is good competition. I’d say it’ll help the Sunset team grow as a whole.”

The predatory, alpha dog juices were definitely flowing as both teams tried to one-up each other and traded first-place finishes during the meet. Plus, the crammed settings of the center made for some lively gabbing and jabber between two schools that want district and state bragging rights.

“Behind the blocks, there’s a lot of smack talk,” said Jesuit senior swimmer Jackson Wahl. “We get in each other’s faces and get each other pumped up. When we dive in, it’s balls to the wall. We go for it and try to beat the other guy. We’re trying to score as many points as possible so we can pull ahead to win.”

“I was definitely thinking Jesuit was going to be a mock trial,” added Zoucha. “I know it’s going to be close at state. And, I think with some of the other teams there, they’re going to knock some of the Jesuit kids out, which will help us in the end.”

The famed boiling BSC pool prevented Zoucha from keeping a high intensity and achieving his high school record in the 200 IM. Zoucha out touched Jesuit’s Jorge Casas in the 100 butterfly but said the pool heat was too much to deal with.

“Compared to our other pools, it’s too hot,” said Zoucha. “It’s too hot to try and go fast in it because your muscles are too relaxed. It’s just too hard to go fast in that. But, what are you going to do? You just have to compete. I just completely bombed it in the last 100 of the 200 IM, so it was kind of a bummer.”

Striking distance

Zoucha is zeroed in on his routine in the water and perfecting technique, rather than shooting for personal bests and school records in the regular season. Mainly, Zoucha’s honing the finish of his stroke as well as the underwater pull that occurs coming off the turn. The defending 200 free state champion missed the state record last year by barely a second, yet Zoucha’s official personal record is one second faster than the state record.

The soon-to-be University of Louisville signee said he probably won’t be at his peak until March for club season, but promised to pick up his times for the 6A state championships. Zoucha wants both state 100 and 200 freestyle records as well as a pair of relay records for the Apollo 200 and 400 free squads.

Casas took third behind Zoucha in the 200 IM and third in the 100 fly behind Furnary and said he’s looking forward to districts where he can drop time and push the starring Sunset duo. Calkins won the 500 free and inched closer to a personal record. The 100 backstroke is only two events after the 500 free, but Calkins rallied in time for a second place and stayed within striking distance of Furnary, who won the event.

The Jesuit boys have been training hard for championship season, which starts Feb. 15 at the Metro League district meet and runs through March. Sore muscles didn’t hinder Jesuit from nearly pulling off the team upset and competing their tails off against the three-time champs.

“The fact that we went that fast today is pretty amazing,” said Calkins. “Sunset was an amazing team last year, so it’s no surprise that they’re an amazing team this year. We’re looking forward to racing them again at districts. Win or lose, it’s going to come down to scrambling for any points you can get.”

Wahl wanted to beat Josh Moore from Sunset in the 200 free, but Moore pulled ahead at the last second and edged the Crusader senior for the win. Wahl also went up against Sunset sophomore sensation Furnary in the 100 backstroke and took second in the event. Both Jesuit and Sunset have one dual meet remaining this year.

“It’s been pretty intense,” said Wahl. “Sunset’s obviously a great team. They have a lot of club swimmers and good non-club swimmers. It’s definitely been a team effort on both sides.”

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