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Prineville Swim Team splashes into a new season

Swimming champions hope to go undefeated this season

by: ANDREW MATHESON/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Prineville Swim Team

The Prineville Swim Team seem to be repeating the preparation of their championship season from one year ago.
   While the team still hops into the pool at 5:30 a.m. at the Prineville Swimming Pool, the PST has increased their distances from this same time last year.
   "Right now, they're averaging 3,500 to 3,800 meters a practice, which is a lot," said Coach John Stewart. At this point last year, the team was swimming about 3,300 meters. "They look really good, they're in really great shape, and I'm really looking forward to this year."
   As the team took the Cascade East District last year with 87 swimmers, one more positive for the defending champions is that their numbers are up. Ranging from five- to 19-years-old, Stewart is coaching approximately 98 swimmers.
   "To be honest, it's the best number of swimmers on our team and a very good range of talent from five- to 19- (years-old)," Stewart said. "Every single kid I have has been working super-hard. There isn't one kid on the team that I don't feel hasn't given it 110 percent."
   Halley Hehn, 19, is also allowed to swim in certain events despite the 18-year-old age limit. Hehn was one of the top female swimmers last year, and will be limited as to what events she can swim in. But Stewart said that at certain swim meets, such as this weekend's meet in Klamath Falls, there are swimming categories that bracket swimmers 13-and-over.
   The no age-limit events, which will also be present at the Prineville swim meet from July 7-9, wipe away the cutoff age of 18, and allow swimmers who are registered with the Oregon Swimming Association - which Hehn is - to continue their swimming careers.
   Hehn, along with Raquel Tarrot, will also help in the coaching duties under Stewart.
   Although Hehn returned, the team did lose some strong male swimmers. Nic Jones and Caleb Puckett - two members of the 14-and-under 200-meter medley relay team that took first place at the district championships last year - are gone from this year's squad.
   "What seems to happen," Stewart explained, "is that these kids, when they get older, they get jobs for the summer. I very seldom have boys that make it to 18- (years-old)."
   To pick up some of the slack will be Mike Estes, 18, who recently joined the team and whom Stewart is very high on.
   Nonetheless, with 98 swimmers, the PST will have the numbers to remain competitive at every meet they go to. This weekend, however, with vacations and high fuel prices, Stewart will only be taking 41 swimmers to Klamath Falls. But the scouting reports on the other three teams in the district - Hi-Desert (Burns), Lakeview, and John Day - seems to be positive.
   Stewart says that some of the other teams in the district are under new coaches, are experiencing pool problems, or are having dwindling numbers on the team. In addition, Stewart believes the PSTs first day in the pool, which was on May 8, was earlier than every other team in the district. With those factors on their side, winning every meet is very attainable.
   "Our kids are involved in other sports, which means they are conditioned and have the lung power," Stewart said. "Our goal is to take first in every meet we swim in, which will be tough, but I think I have the number of swimmers to do it."