The Pioneer girls should be in the mix for a Northwest Oregon team title come February

by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandy High swim coach Jamie Paul, left, shouts instructions from the pool deck during a recent dual meet.

A spark of interest smoldered in the halls of Sandy High School at the conclusion of last year's swimming season. With the success of boys' swimmer Nick Chaney and the surprising emergence of girls' swimmer Hannah Gupton, people started to take notice of the program.

Chaney finished 11th in the 100-meter butterfly at state last year, and ninth in the 100 breaststroke. That was after coming off an offseason in which health concerns limited his time in the pool. Now a junior, Chaney is more experienced and more prepared.

“I feel a lot better this season,” Chaney said. “Last year, I was out of shape when the season started and it was hard to catch up. This year, I swam straight through the summer. I'm much more ready and in shape this season.”

Alongside Chaney on the boys' end is Kennedy Salveter, who will be the Pioneers' go-to guy in the backstroke and the individual medley. He and Chaney will be competitive, if not favored, in all four of their combined individual events in every meet this season.

The achilles' heel for the Sandy boys' team will be the lack of depth. Aside from Chaney and Salveter, the Pioneers' are extremely deficient. That is a problem coach Jamie Paul is taking steps to repair.

“We still need more numbers, and it really starts with middle school programs,” Paul said. “Having solid middle schools programs feeds into high school, so I'm working with the middle schoolers as well. It takes time, but we're getting there.”

For the time being, Sandy has to work with what it has. The team did have more boys come out for the team, which is encouraging. At times last season, the Pioneers didn't fill all the varsity spots, so at least now they have a swimmer in every lane.

The Sandy girls' swimming team is not as handcuffed with low numbers, but it too will lean heavily on its top-tier swimmers.

First on that list is Gupton.

Last season, she was just a freshman and an unknown to most of the high school swimming world. Gupton burst onto the scene in the regular season and turned heads with two top-five finishes at the state qualifiers. She then shocked everybody by winning the state championship in the 100 meter butterfly by three-tenths of a second. Gupton will be the outright favorite in that event every time she steps onto the platform this season, and the state championship final will not be an exception.

“The biggest difference for me this year is that I feel a lot more confident,” Gupton said. “I didn't know what to expect last year, because I was a freshman, but my confidence is a lot higher than it was then.”

In addition to the butterfly, Gupton is also competing in the individual medley this season. If she can make a splash in that event, Sandy will be in good shape.

However, Gupton will not be a one-woman show. Fellow sophomores Asha Gatchell and Zayna Salveter will also make some noise in their events. So far in the young season, Gatchell has had a few good showings in the backstroke and Salveter has been winning in the breaststroke. Senior Amanda Snodgrass is a force to reckoned with in the distance freestyle. Not only will those swimmers be solid individually, they also will make up a quality relay team.

With the returners and new faces on both the boys' and girls' teams, expectations have been raised for every Sandy swimmer.

“Of course, winning state is the ultimate goal for everyone,” Chaney said. “That is what we are all trying to do personally. As a team, we are just trying to get as many people as possible to state, and once we get there, we will see what happens.”

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