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PREP FOCUS: Cleveland High swimmers have a home base again

Defending PIL 5A girls champs lose a standout, but Warriors program gains an assistant coach in Ben Weston


There's a place, once again, for the Cleveland High swim teams.

After going from pool to pool to pool to pool for practices last season, the Warriors have been able to secure a steady training schedule — 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., five nights a week, at Southwest Community Center.

"It's nice to have something we can count on," says coach Mollie Starr, the school's third-year coach.

Having a steady diet of location and pool time makes the workouts more consistent and convenient than they were a year ago, when the Warriors trained wherever they could, going from Buckman to Dishman to Reed College to Mt. Scott Community Center and elsewhere.

The 2013-14 season is underway for Cleveland and other Portland Interscholastic League teams, with meets typically on Fridays.

The Warriors have approximately 50 swimmers, and an almost equal number of boys and girls. Both squads are aiming at the Feb. 14-15 district meet and possible qualification for the Class 5A state championships.

The Warriors have lost one of their top girls, Ida Donohue, who won the 5A title last season in the 100-yard butterfly and helped lead Cleveland to the PIL 5A district title. She transferred to 5A Corvallis High.

Cleveland has several returning girl swimmers, though, including PIL 5A soccer player of the year Anna West, PIL 5A cross-country champion Emma Wren.

"We've only been practicing for a couple of weeks, so we're still trying to figure out where everyone is at and what they'll swim," Starr says.

West, a senior, might make the transition from sprints to longer distances, for instance.

Wren, junior Gabrielle Dewson, seniors Caroline Baber and Emma Adams and others will take the coming weeks to find their ideal spots, as well, in both individual and relay events.

On the boys side, the Warriors return sophomores Tyler Soo and Ben Mosberg, juniors Tucker Johnson and Nathan Kim, and seniors Zach Armstrong, Joel Hwee and Ari Abramovitz, among others.

"I really enjoy coaching at Cleveland. This is a fun bunch of kids," Starr says. "They work hard, and they are true student-athletes who care about their grades. We've had a really high team GPA."

Starr has a new assistant coach in Ben Weston, a 2001 NCAA Division III 500 freestyle champion from the University of Santa Cruz.

Weston, 32, is in his first year of teaching, as well. He teaches business at Cleveland.

Until recently, Weston was an attorney, primarily doing estate planning, trust and probate law.

"It just wasn't the career for me," says the San Diego native. "I wanted to do something where I was helping people. As a teacher, I get to actually help build students' futures and help them with what they want to achieve."

Weston started swimming at age 5 and competed beyond college. He was a state champion in high school, a 12-time All-American at Santa Cruz and an Olympic Trials competitor in the 200 and 400 free.

After college, he spent six months in the Portland area, training with a team at Tualatin Hills.

"It didn't really pan out, but I liked the area," he says.

He returned to San Diego for law school, while continuing to swim at masters meets.

His wife was working there for a company based in Portland, though, and they decided 3 1/2 years ago to relocate here. The couple has a 2 1/2-year-old son, Luke, and a 6-week-old girl, Lila.

"Between having a newborn and starting my first year of teaching and coaching swimming, life is a bit crazy right now," Weston says.