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Vikings make waves at district meet

Forest Grove wins three district championships and qualifies five swimmers for the state meet
by: Dan Brood Forest Grove junior Vera Hutchison celebrates after winning the 200-yard individual medley at Saturday’s Pacific Conference district swim meet. Hutchison was seeded fourth in the event going into the finals, but swam to 
victory with a time of 2:13.72.

If one of the points of sport is to determine how well athletes can compete within themselves on the biggest stage, then the Forest Grove boys and girls swim teams shined their brightest last weekend at the Pacific Conference district swim meet in Tualatin.

'We did really, really well,' Viking coach Paul Waterstreet said. 'With one or two exceptions, everyone had their best times in all their events. They all swam as far as they could go and competed. We're really pleased with what they did.

'We're always happy when they qualify for state and go to the next level, but you can't ask for much more than getting your best time right when you needed it at the district competition.'

The Viking boys finished the district meet in fourth place while the girls finished in eighth. But, Forest Grove had three individual swimmers and two relay teams qualify for the Class 6A state meet this weekend.

Vera Hutchison took first place in the 200-yard individual medley, Gabe Rooker took first place in both the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, and Charles Morse finished second in the 500 free.

Given the stiff competition in the Pacific Conference, Waterstreet says that qualifying for state is something of which each swimmer should be very proud.

'The district we swim in is a very tough district,' he said. 'That means a lot to them because they know that they're competing at the highest level against the best athletes in the state. There's a lot of pride in the fact that they are in a tough swimming district.'

To win the 200 IM and also qualify for the state meet in the 100 butterfly, Hutchison, a club swimmer, had to fight through the fatigue of a grueling practice schedule leading up to the district meet.

'She was really tired going into the meet and then she got there and got fired up and just really swam very well,' Waterstreet said. 'She competed really tough. She swam her heart out and came up with really good times in there.'

Waterstreet expects Hutchison to show well in the state meet.

'Vera can be top six in both of her events,' Waterstreet said. 'That's a reasonable goal for her to achieve.'

Rooker, meanwhile, came to the district meet on a mission - to win.

'He wanted to win both of his events and he did that,' Waterstreet said.

Rooker, already the two-time defending state champion in the 100 breaststroke, will also be gunning for a title in the 50 freestyle, an event he added to his repertoire this year. He will be seeded first at state after posting the lowest qualifying time (21.48 seconds).

Waterstreet also expects Morse to compete well in the state meet.

'Hopefully he can continue to improve and move up the ladder and get in the top six in state,' Waterstreet said. 'If he can continue to have those kinds of improvements from regular season to district, from district to state, then he should move up into the top six.'

A slightly unexpected result for the Vikings was the boys qualifying for state in both the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay.

There are three ways for a relay team to qualify for the state meet. The team can automatically qualify by winning districts or swimming an automatic qualifying time. But, if there are not 18 teams that have done that by the end of the season, the state meet selects wild card relay teams with the next best times in the state.

At the district meet, the Forest Grove boys finished third in the freestyle relay and fourth in the medley relay, but swam fast enough to earn wild card spots in both events.

Waterstreet could not have been more thrilled about the possibility for more Viking swimmers to compete at the state meet.

'It's awesome,' Waterstreet said. 'It's one of those things that you just say, 'OK, no matter how far behind you are, you've got to keep swimming because you always have that wild card that you can sneak into state through. And that's what we did.

'It panned out that we have two relays that get to go to state and compete at the next level. So they're excited.'

The Forest Grove swimmers will enter the state meet with high expectations. But, Waterstreet would be content with his swimmers achieving everything at state that they achieved in the district meet.

'I want the best times (of the year) for everybody,' he said. 'What we ask of them is, 'When you get there, swim your hardest and compete.' The results will indicate if you did that when you're there.

'It's kind of a trite answer to get your best times, but if they do that then they'll have great success.'




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