The Wildcats secure their state title by winning the last event at 6A state
by: MILES VANCE, WINNERS — The Westview girls swim celebrated its third straight big-school state title on Sunday. The team included (clockwise from bottom left) Michelle Needham, Kelsey Pinson, Abigail Lindstrom, Jordan King, Hannah McCulley, Kayla Branche, coach Melinda Miller and Kath Liggett.

GRESHAM - There was a time, not too long ago, when the Westview girls swim team seemingly couldn't buy a break at the state swim meet.

From 1999 to 2001, the Wildcat girls finished second each year at state (and second behind a different opponent each time) and just couldn't seem to get over the top.

How long ago those days seem now.

On Sun-day, the Wildcats won their third straight Oregon big-school state championship, this time coming through in the meet's final event to secure their title with 142 points. Tualatin, which trailed the Cats by four points entering the 400-yard freestyle relay, took second in the final event and second overall with 132 points while David Douglas was third at 117.

'We were so nervous because we knew we had to win, we had to beat Tualatin at least,' said Westview junior Kelsey Pinson, who swam the second leg on her team's 400 freestyle relay. 'It feels great.'

'I think it was definitely the most stressful year of any of them, but I think it was the most fun because it was all depending on the last race and we've never had to do that before,' said junior Kath Liggett, who swam on two of the Cats' relay teams and took seventh and ninth in her two individual events. 'I think it was just more rewarding to win this year.'

'Every (state title) is special, but this one was definitely the most nerve-wracking,' added Cats' coach Melinda Miller.

Westview, which admittedly struggled a bit in Friday's preliminaries, opened Sunday's championship round with a fourth-place finish in the 200 medley relay, posting a 1:51.76 behind Michelle Needham, Kayla Branche, Jordan King and Liggett.

Then , in the 200 individual medley, King swam to a third-place finish with a time of 2:07.47, trailing only Tualatin's Hannah Points at 2:04.68 and Barlow's Jacquie Leung at 2:05.30. And King was just getting warmed up - she came back two events later in her specialty, the 100 butterfly.

There, King hit the accelerator in the second half of her race to pull away from McNary's Natascha Mangan and win her third straight state butterfly title in 55.79. Mangan was second at 56.69.

'It's my best time ever, and I think it's a national cut so I'm really happy with it,' said King, who bettered last year's winning time by almost a second. 'I was very nervous and I do good when I'm nervous.'

Abi Lindstrom added a sixth in the 100 freestyle (54.10), and then Liggett, Hannah McCulley, Pinson and Lindstrom grabbed fifth in the 200 freestyle relay at 1:40.49. Needham added her team's last points from an individual event when she placed fourth in the 100 backstroke at 59.52, and that set the table for the day's dramatic final relay.

There, in the 400 freestyle relay, Canby blasted to an early lead thanks to a brilliant first leg from star Morgan Scroggy while Westview was third behind King. The Cats were still third after Pinson's leg, but moved up to second (trailing David Douglas) after Lindstrom's efforts, and then put their title on ice after Needham brought it home to beat Tualatin by .69.

'We have to make it exciting,' King said.

'It's a great feeling. We had the adrenaline pumping,' Pinson said.

And to cap off a season dotted with injuries, questions and two regular season Metro League losses, Sunday's third straight title could not have been sweeter.

'We didn't do as well in the dual season because we had more injuries and stuff,' said Liggett, who suffered a hairline fracture to her wrist in a late-season snowboarding accident. 'We weren't the underdogs, but we hadn't done as well so it was more rewarding.

'Especially this year, we just had to be positive, and helping each other with a positive attitude is good.'

'We're all really dedicated and we all work hard,' Pinson added. 'And

we're all good friends and it helps us push ourselves in practice.'

The Wildcats will get another chance to showcase their skills too - Westview's state contingent didn't

include a single senior and therefore will return in total to try for a fourth straight state championship in the 2007-08 season.

Westview is the first girls team at

Oregon's largest classification to win three straight state titles since Sunset won three consecutive championships in 1983-85.

But the Wildcat program has a long

way to go if it hopes to match the state record for consecutive team championships - David Douglas won eight straight girls titles between 1967-1975 and five straight from 1977-81.

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