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Jaguars hope to send a larger contingent to the 6A state meet

The 2013-14 season will be about quality, not quantity, for the Century swimming team.

The Century girls sent six swimmers to the Class 6A state championships last winter, and those girls — led by junior Ellie Thornbrue, who won a state title in the 200-yard freestyle and also took second place in the 500 free — powered the Jaguars to a sixth-place team finish, one of the best performances in school history.

Only one state meet qualifier graduated in the spring, but a total of seven girls are gone from last year’s team, meaning overall numbers are low for Century this season. Still, head coach Sarah Holman is optimistic that the Jaguars can actually improve upon their showing at this year’s state meet.

“Our girls team is small, but all of our girls are very high quality,” Holman said. “It should be an interesting season. I don’t know how we’ll do in league because we have such a small team, but I think we should see more girls swimming at the state meet this year and hopefully we will also have some boys at state again.”

Thornbrue is the headliner for the Jaguars, having won back-to-back state championships in the 200 free. She swam the event in 1 minute, 52.25 seconds to win the title as a freshman in 2012, then trimmed that down to 1:50.11 last year, coming within one second of Laura Miller’s four-year-old Class 6A state meet record.

“Ellie has won the 200 free two years in a row, so she will be looking to continue that trend,” Holman said.

Thornbrue also took second last year in the grueling 500 free, clocking a time of 4:56.05 to finish just behind Jesuit senior Blaise Wittenauer-Lee (4:52.91).

Century returns several other talented swimmers, including junior Logan Neal, who logged a pair of top-five finishes at last year’s state meet — third in the 50 freestyle (24.54) and fourth in the 100 free (53.71).

“Logan will definitely have her sights set higher this year,” Holman said. “I know she would like to move up into the top-three in both events, and maybe challenge for a state title.”

Both Thornbrue and Neal also swam on the Jaguars’ state qualifying 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams, along with fellow juniors Yuliya Lunina and Haley Leitner.

Lunina will miss the early portion of this season as she rehabs an injury, but Holman expects her back in time for the district and state meets. Leitner is coming off a season in which she qualified for state in both the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly. She finished 16th in both events last season.

Sophomore Hannah Galbraith, who swam on that 400 free relay squad, is also back this season, and Holman expects big things from sophomore Sarah Metzsch and freshman Riley Neal.

“Hopefully this year we’ll have more individual swims at state and finish in the top six in both relays,” Holman said.

Century’s boys are looking to make a return to the state meet after a two-year hiatus. The Jaguars have a core group that should challenge for a state meet berth in at least one relay, plus several inidividual events.

Senior Josh Galbraith leads the way along with returning junior Brant Edwards.

“I think he has an excellent shot of making state,” Holman said of Galbraith. “He was very close last year. He’s just improved a ton over his four years at Century.”

Holman is also excited about newcomers Liam Metzsch, a junior, and Kyle Berquist, a freshman.

“Liam is a very strong swimmer. He’s very talented and we’re happy to have him on the team this year,” Holman said. “I don’t know as much about Kyle because he’s a freshman, but he’s got a lot of talent and we’ll get to see how he develops over the course of the season.”

Century’s first Pacific Conference dual meet of the season was scheduled for Thursday against Tigard (results not available at press time), and the Jaguars will host Newberg next Tuesday.

Liberty Falcons

The 2012-13 season was a banner one for the Liberty boys swim team, and thanks in no small part to the return of two top-two state meet placers, this winter could be as good or even better.

The Falcons — third in the Northwest Conference and fourth in the Class 5A state meet in February — kicked off the season on Tuesday with a double dual meet against Milwaukie and Rex Putnam at the Shute Park Recreation & Aquatic Center in Hillsboro. They did so without the services of Anton Loncar, who was representing his Hillsboro Heat club team in North Carolina for the Winter Junior National Championships, which began Thursday and conclude on Saturday.

But with super sophomore Daniel Lupro leading the way, the Falcons did just fine. Lupro swam to individual victories in the 100-yard butterfly and 100 breaststroke, and put in legs on the winning 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams, leading Liberty to easy victories against the Mustangs (124-30) and the Kingsmen (112-48).

“We have some new swimmers out that have definitely shown some remarkable growth,” sixth-year coach Paul Hanson said. “It’s exciting to ... see some of our state returners that are coming back looking stronger and just continuing for a good season.”

In February, Loncar — who has signed a national letter of intent with the University of Denver — and Lupro combined for all of Liberty’s points scored in individual events at the 5A state meet. Loncar won the boys 100 backstroke and took fifth in the 200 freestyle, while Lupro was second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 individual medley.

Those two also formed half of the Falcons’ fourth-place 200 medley relay, as well as the 400 free relay squad, which would have made the state finals if not for a disqualification in the preliminaries. Together, they helped the Falcons reach the team awards podium for the first time in school history.

Hanson said he is looking for the pair to continue to be among the top swimmers in the conference and the state. Loncar and Lupro, the coach noted, are likely to return in their specialty events — the backstroke and breaststroke, respectively — though Hanson was unsure which other individual events he would put them in.

Since the state meet, the Falcons have graduated Nick Meek, the butterfly leg of that medley relay, as well as McGregor Sumner, who swam on both relays at state. But Decker Strom, the second leg on that 400 freestyle relay, also returns, so Liberty is just a swimmer or two away from another couple high-class relays.

One possible replacement on the medley’s butterfly leg, Lupro said, might be Max Schmitt, a freshman who used to participate in club swimming.

“We’re hoping to be again very competitive in district as well as in state,” Hanson said.

For the girls team, Hailey Cablao returns for her junior season. She took sixth in the 100 breaststroke at the state meet last season and also qualified for the meet in the 200 IM. The Liberty girls turned back Milwaukie 113-30 and edged Rex Putnam 84-76 on Tuesday.

Glencoe Crimson Tide

Legendary Marquette basketball coach Al McGuire famously quipped, “The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.”

Glencoe swimming coach Amy Powers knows all about that.

Last season, Powers fielded a girls team comprised mostly of freshmen, which meant the Crimson Tide suffered through some growing pains while failing to qualify any swimmers for the Class 6A state meet.

This season, all those freshmen are a year older and more experienced, and Powers is optimistic that the Tide will once again be represented at state.

“Things are looking really great,” Powers said. “We have a young girls team, but they’re motivated and they worked really hard in the offseason. All our top girls swimmers were freshmen last year, so hopefully they’ll continue to grow over the course of their careers.”

Among the many sophomores Powers will count on this season are versatile sisters Hannah and Maya Ahluwalia, who will compete in the 500 and 200-yard freestyle, respectively, as well as some breaststroke and backstroke events. Powers is also excited about Amy Benedict, who returns this year to swim the 50 free and 200 individual medley.

On the boys side, junior Logan Frank is back after qualifying for last year’s state meet in the 500 freestyle. He finished 12th at state, and will be a key building block for a boys team that lacks big-meet experience.

“He’ll go back (to state), and hopefully in more than one event,” Powers said.

While Frank looks for individual success, he will also likely anchor two of the Tide’s relay teams, which are searching for state meet bids.

“The boys team is looking really strong,” Powers said. “I’m hoping we’ll have another good season.”

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