Century's girls swim team wins the school's second-ever state championship, following a softball title in 2011

Team state championships have been difficult to come by at Century High HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Century swimming coach Sarah Holman (far left) poses with swimmers Ellie Thornbrue, Logan Neal, Hannah Galbraith, Sara Metzsch and Riley Neal, plus assistant coach Ty Gantt, after the Jaguars won a state title.

The school opened in the fall of 1997 and did not pick up its first state title until 2011, when the softball team caught fire in the playoffs to put the first banner on the wall.

Thanks to the Jaguar girls swim team, the wait for a second crown was not nearly as long as the first. At the Class 6A swimming state championships in Gresham in late February, Century’s five participating girls combined for victories in four individual events and two relays — six of the meet program’s 11 events.

The Jaguars also set three meet records en route to a 168-143 win over runner-up Lake Oswego, snapping the Metro League’s nine-year stranglehold on the girls team state title.

“This is what the girls wanted all season long,” Century coach Sarah Holman said after the awards ceremony. “They are really the ones who deserve all the credit for working hard all season and coming here and giving everything they have in the pool.”

Casual observers might not have seen the title coming. After all, due to a lack of depth, Century finished in the middle of the pack in league dual meets. But the Jaguars were just biding their time, as their true potential lay in the big competitions, where a few high-class athletes can pick up big points and carry a team a long way.

The Jaguars showed a glimpse of what might be possible the week before state at the Pacific Conference district meet in McMinnville. There, Century won eight of the 11 girls’ races, to go along with a 100-yard backstroke meet record by Sara Metzsch as well as new meet standards in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

That momentum continued at Mt. Hood Community College. The Jaguars entered the meet as title contenders, at least on paper, and they did nothing to lessen their status during the first day’s preliminaries. Then they went out and lived up to their billing in the finals on Feb. 22.

“In our best estimation of what would happen today, this was best-case scenario,” Holman said. “We knew we had to swim all of our events right. We had control of it, so we knew that it was in our hands and if we did what we needed to do, we could win, and we did.”

Indeed, Century embraced its role as a title contender on the final day and piled up the points.

Thanks to their top-notch performances, Ellie Thornbrue and Metzsch had a great deal to do with the eventual outcome, but the victory was a true team effort, as each girl scored points individually and swam on at least one of those two winning relays.

Longtime club swimmer Metzsch, a sophomore, turned in a performance to remember in her first state meet, picking up her first state title in the 100 butterfly before powering away in the second half of the 100 backstroke to tie the year-old OSAA meet record of 54.81 seconds.

Thornbrue added to her collection of state titles with a three-peat in the 200 freestyle before picking up her first 500 free victory a bit later in the competition.

“I knew that I could (win) my individual events, and I knew that we would have a really good shot, but I think the relays were probably the most exciting part,” Thornbrue said.

Those relays, which score double points compared with individual events, were also important steps on the path to the team victory.

Thornbrue and Metzsch combined with Galbraith and Logan Neal to win the 200 free relay, coming within a half-second of the OSAA meet record.

And the Jaguars closed the meet with a flourish, as Metzsch, Riley Neal, Logan Neal and Thornbrue smashed the OSAA meet record in the 400 free relay for the second day in a row, with their 3:29.95 putting the exclamation point on a championship-winning performance.

But all those wins alone would not have been enough to propel the Jaguars onto the top spot of the team podium, something Holman knew all about from her own high school days.

“Let me tell you, that’s not enough to win. My junior year, we had four individual titles between me and another girl and two relay titles and we got fourth,” said Holman, a former Tualatin standout. “So I knew it was going to take more than just a couple of really talented girls. We have more than just a couple of really talented girls.”

Indeed. Logan Neal added points in the freestyle sprint finals, Riley Neal pulled double duty in the finals of the grueling 200-yard individual medley and 500 freestyle races, and Hannah Galbraith chipped in with a score in the 100 backstroke consolation final.

All of that helped turn promise and possibility into the actuality of a state championship.

Best of all, there may be more to come from this group. While it’s difficult to predict what could happen next year — teams reload, and injuries, illness and family moves happen, after all — not one of the five girls that competed for Century at state was a senior.

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