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Civil War swim meet goes down to the wire on girls side

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Above, Lake Oswego’s Mackenzie Luick swims en route to a school record in the breaststroke during last week’s dual meet. Below, Lakeridge’s Emily Lightcap takes a breath during her winning effort in the 500 freestyle.

It wasn't quite brother against brother but this year's Civil War swim meet pitted a coach against his former pupils and the result was one of the more exciting Lake Oswego vs. Lakeridge showdowns in years.

Karl von Tagen is in his first year of coaching at Lake Oswego but he previously headed up the Pacers and presided over current Lakeridge coaches Justin Lindsey and Robert Wilson.

'It was fun competing against them. They're great guys and Lakeridge is lucky to have them,' von Tagen said.

And it was von Tagen celebrating at the evening's end as the Lakers swept the meet winning the boys competition 98-71 and sneaking out an 87-82 victory on the girls' side in a meet that went down to the final race of the night.

But it was a terrific showing by both schools as a number of personal-best times were turned in and a school record was broken.

'We had a great meet from top to bottom. This was the most impressive team effort we've had in a long time,' Lindsey said.

At the beginning of the season, von Tagen was quick to point out that the Pacers were the favorites in the league but, with each passing meet, he began to realize that the Lakers weren't far behind if at all.

Heading into last week's meet, the girls' competition was expected to be exceedingly close and that was certainly the case. With one race remaining, Lakeridge led by a single point, meaning that whoever won the 400 freestyle relay would also win the dual meet.

That race was tight from the moment the swimmers hit the water with Lakeridge holding a slim lead for much of it. The Pacers led by half a body length heading into the anchor leg.

Lakeridge's Amy Wiley who had come within six hundredths of a second from breaking a school record in the 100 breaststroke a few minutes earlier, was able to hold off the Lakers' Kelsey Rueppel for the first 100 yards of her leg.

But, in the final lap, Rueppel made up the short distance and passed Wiley with 15 yards to go and gave Lake Oswego the win by less than two seconds.

That win also provided the final margin of victory for Lake Oswego and set off a celebration on the pool deck.

'Kelsey brought it home for us. She had swum the 500 for us earlier so that was really impressive. We haven't heard cheering like that in a while,' von Tagen said.

The Lakers got off to a good start in the meet, winning the first three races. Alex Farrar, Mackenzie Luick, Rueppel and Gracie Hampton handily won the 200 medley relay and Farrar then edged out Emily Lightcap in the 200 freestyle.

Luick picked up her first individual win in the 200 individual medley, ahead of Lakeridge's Brittany Anderson in second, who turned in a best time.

The Pacers got on track in the 50 freestyle, when Wiley and Lydia Burris took first and second place respectively.

Burris then swam in the next event, the 100 butterfly, and won it in a time of 59.84, coming in just a tenth of a second ahead of Rueppel for Lake Oswego.

It marked the first time that Burris had broken a minute in that event.

Julia Dahl made it three Lakeridge victories in a row in the 100 freestyle, finishing in 56.44 seconds while Christina Turner and Hampton took second and third for the Lakers.

Lightcap followed with her usual dominant performance in the 500 freestyle for Lakeridge and the Pacers took over the lead in the meet with a win in the 200 freestyle relay.

The Lakers rallied quickly. Farrar edged out Dahl in the 100 backstroke setting up a showdown in the breaststroke.

'Julia had a great meet for us. That was the first time she has swum backstroke for us and she came within two seconds of Alex,' Lindsey said.

Lake Oswego and Lakeridge have some of the state's top swimmers in that event and they were on display last week. Luick won the event in 1:05.08, setting a school and pool record in the process.

'Mackenzie's one of our mainstays. That was a great swim from her,' von Tagen said.

But Wiley and her near school-record time was just a second and a half behind.

'Amy nearly beat the school record which was set 18 years ago. That was before she was born,' Lindsey said.

The third place finish by the Pacers' Anderson helped keep Lakeridge up by a point heading into the dramatic 400 free relay.

'It was a nail-biter. I'm just happy for the kids,' von Tagen said.

Now the Lakers, with a win over Milwaukie, will clinch the dual meet league title and both teams will focus on the district meet in early February.

Meanwhile, Lake Oswego's depth won the day in the boys' meet.

The Lakers won all but three events and won by a sizeable margin that surprised even their coach.

'When they announced the scored midway through the meet I couldn't believe it. I thought they made a mistake,' von Tagen said.

Lake Oswego took home the 200 medley relay and then in the 200 freestyle, Brendan Liu and Dean Stromme finished first and second, giving the Lakers a quick advantage.

Andrew Heymann won Lakeridge's first event, taking home the 200 IM while Wayne Yang and Alex Lyons came in second and third for the Lakers.

The Pacers made it two in a row in the 50 freestyle with Brian Cha finishing a tenth of a second ahead of Isaac Hayden in a time of 23.05.

Lyons then won the 100 butterfly, narrowly defeating Jason Lou from Lakeridge while Chris Izsak came in third for Lake Oswego.

In one of the closest races of the night, Hayden won the 100 freestyle in 50.19, two hundredths of a second in front of Cha for the Pacers. Michael Sayer swam to an easy victory in the 500 freestyle for the Lakers.

Lake Oswego won the 200 free relay and Liu then won his second individual race of the night for the Lakers in the 100 backstroke while Lakeridge's Keahi Horowitz turned in a solid swim en route to second place.

'Brendan's such a solid swimmer. He's so consistent,' von Tagen said.

The Pacers picked up their final win of the meet in the 100 breaststroke when Heymann won his second event, nipping Sayer at the wall.

'The breaststroke isn't Andrew's best event but he stepped up to win it for us. That was a gutsy performance,' Lindsey said.

And Lake Oswego had a strong finish with its win in the 400 free relay.

As with the girls, the Laker boys can clinch the dual meet title with a win over Milwaukie.