Forest Grove boys set their sights on the state meet in February, while girls hope to shine at districts

As the smell of chlorine envelops the air, swimmers gasp for breath and then disappear back to the clear, wavy niche that is their workout. With depth, youth and determination on their side, the Forest Grove swim team has its eyes set on competing at state as they dive into the 2006-07 season.

Head coach Paul Waterstreet, now in his 15th year at the helm, and his wife, Diana, will spearhead another season for Forest Grove with the hope that veterans and freshmen will merge together in the team's quest for strong dual-meet competition and high honors at the district and state meets in February.

With the new OSAA classifications handed down prior to the start of the school year, the Vikings find themselves in a smaller league - only six teams versus last year's nine - but the competition will be just as stiff with only the strongest squads remaining in the new Pacific Conference.

For the Forest Grove girls, the task will be daunting as three of the six teams in the Pacific Conference placed in the Top 10 at last year's state meet. The boys, meanwhile, will compete against four of the state's top 10 teams from last year.

'When we went to this new class system, the six strongest teams were left in the Pac West league,' said Waterstreet. 'When you are competing with teams like Tualatin (second in the state last season for both boys and girls), Newberg, Canby and McMinnville (all placing in the top 10 last season) it makes the league more challenging.'

For the boys, team leadership and strength will come from seniors Steven Allnut and Zach Thompson. Allnut is looking to duplicate his trip to state from last year while making drastic improvements in his individual placing. In 2006 he took 11th in the 200-yard freestyle and seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke. This year, however, Allnut is aiming to place in the top two in both events at the state finals.

'Top two would be great,' he said. 'But I'm working toward being first.'

Thompson is hoping to avenge a missed turn at last year's districts and place in the top three this year, while continuing to contribute to relays in hopes of going to the state meet for the first time.

'I want to help out in any way I can,' said Thompson. 'I feel like I had a leg up when the season started because I had just finished playing water polo and I am hoping to use that endurance and speed to help get these guys back to state.'

Additional depth on the boys team will come in the form of junior Steven Rawson, with state finals experience from last season, as well as freshmen Jacob Cockeran and Patrick Rawon, who have strong swimming backgrounds from the Forest Grove Swim Club.

Cockeran is excited about the jump from club to high school swimming.

'In club, Steve-O (Allnut) and I would push each other during practice and now with Patrick and Steven (Rawson) in the mix, it makes for a faster pace with the sets. I'm just having fun with it.'

The girls team is looking to young and experienced athletes this season as they strive to keep up with some of the top teams in the state.

Sophomore Madelyn Allnut will lead the way as she looks to place in the top six at districts in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard freestyle. Junior Rusty Lindstrom is also aiming for a top finish at districts in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events. Both swimmers expressed their enthusiasm about the depth in numbers from returning athletes and the addition of Forest Grove Swim Club swimmers that have joined the high school ranks.

'The freshmen that are finally here are a tremendous asset to our team and it's exciting to finally have them with us,' said Allnut. 'We have a good varsity team with mostly swimmers from last year, so it will be an exciting season.'

Sophomore Elisse Hansen, along with senior Noelle Castle and juniors Molly Clark and Kirstin Stanley are expected to have great seasons as they take a run at high finishes in the district meet. Freshmen Allie Thomas, Azsha Preble and Jannette Gordon will also make huge contributions this year according to Waterstreet, especially in the freestyle and breaststroke events.

'We have some new age-group swimmers and a great core. They are just a few years off of greatness. So we will keep on improving, with our goal being a better season in this year than last year,' said Waterstreet.

Overall, while the girls' goals culminate with the district meet in McMinnville the weekend of Feb. 9-10, several boys are hoping to advance to the state meet at Mount Hood Community College the following week.

As they prepare for this season's meets, the Viking swimmers continue their quest for quick breaths of chlorinated air in the hope that it will make them a tenth of a second faster than their opponent in a sport that is dominated by milliseconds and millimeters.

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