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Influx of skilled boys, return of experienced girls have Wildcats excited for upcoming season

by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Noah Norris, who competed at North Marion as a frsehman last year, has joined the Wilsonville swimming team. He was a Class 4A state qualifier last season.It was a sweet start to the season for the Wilsonville swimming team.

At the Northwest Oregon Conference relays Dec. 5 at Eisenschmidt Pool in St. Helens, heat winners were rewarded with sugary treats.

“My boys won a lot of candy,” Wildcats coach Deb Mandeville said.

For Mandeville, who is entering her 18th season at the helm, it was as much of an indicator as any that the boys program is in the midst of a renaissance.

A year after placing seventh out of eight teams at the district meet and not being represented at the state championships, Wilsonville appears capable of sending multiple athletes to this year’s Class 5A meet.

And the change in prospects, Mandeville said, has plenty to do with the influx of a few young but talented swimmers.

Wildcats sophomore Noah Norris, who transferred from North Marion, will likely be a major contributor in the sprints this season. Norris was phenomenal as a freshman at North Marion last year, setting school records and winning state medals in the 100-yard backstroke and 200 individual medley races while leading the Huskies’ 400 free relay to fourth place at the 4A state finals.

Mandeville’s program is also buoyed by two standout freshmen in Chris Glaess and Derek Webb. Glaess, who has competed in the club ranks with the Oregon City Swim Team, will likely have a strong impact in the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley events. Webb, a Sherwood YMCA Dragons club swimmer, will probably compete in the butterfly, breaststroke and medley races.

“We’re pretty young, but the boys team has been rejuvenated,” Mandeville said. “Things are looking good for the boys team for the next few years.”

Kyle Ruud, one of Wilsonville’s best returning swimmers on the boys side, figures to play a role in the relays. He was a consolation finalist at last year’s NWOC championships.

Lacrosse standout John Hodson, who was also a consolation finalist at the district meet last season, decided to forgo his senior swimming campaign, Mandeville said.

The Wildcats girls team, meanwhile, also has the makings of a successful year thanks to the return of many key swimmers.

The leader of the group is senior Christie Halverson, who last year won a district championship in the 500-yard freestyle race, joined the 400 free relay squad for another league title and earned two top-four medals at the 5A state meet.

“She’s looking pretty good coming off a great cross-country season,” Mandeville said. “She’s really talented.”

The other members of the defending league champion relay squad — Carolina Ramirez, Heather Leitz and Hannah Cesario — are also back for Wilsonville. Leitz and Cesario attend school at Tualatin-Horizon Christian but compete with the Wildcats because the private school does not have a swimming team.

Mandeville said senior Emma Harms, an alternate for the 400 free relay last year, will also be a key contributor this season.

“We have a group of senior girls, so we’ll be rebuilding next year,” Mandeville said.

As usual, Mandeville has to be diligent in seeking out practice space for her swimmers to help them develop their skills over the course of the season. Wilsonville does not have a swimming pool.

Mandeville coaches at the Sherwood YMCA, so she has snagged occasional pool time there for Wilsonville.

“But I have more than 50 swimmers this year, and I can’t accommodate all of them in three lanes,” she said. “I can only bring the kids who need the longer workouts. I picked out a team (of about 20) that needed to be over there, and they do their best to get there because there’s no busing.”

Practice time was particularly elusive heading into the meet at St. Helens, Mandeville said, because the pool in Tualatin that the Wildcats also use had a problem with its pump.

“I say this every year, and I’ll say it again — we need a pool,” she said.

Nonetheless, Mandeville was encouraged by the efforts of her swimmers at the NWOC relays. The informal event, which included underwater and kickboard relays, was designed to introduce new athletes to high school competition in a fun and welcoming environment.

“It was a little chaotic — I have more swimmers than any other team in the district,” Mandeville said. “And because we don’t have a pool, many of them have never been exposed to the sport. It’s a little daunting when they think about getting up there by themselves and having stroke and turn judges watching them. But this was a lot of fun.

“This could be a really fun year with quite a few kids at the state meet.”




Coach: Deb Mandeville (18th year)

Last year: Was represented in two individual girls races and one girls relay at the state meet

Key swimmers: Christie Halverson, Carolina Ramirez, Heather Leitz, Hannah Cesario, Noah Norris, Chris Glaess, Kyle Ruud

Next meet: 4 p.m. Dec. 12 at Sandy

Outlook: With the influx of young talent on the boys side and the return of several experienced girls, coach Deb Mandeville is looking forward to what “could be a really fun year with quite a few kids at the state meet.”



12/12   Sandy                          4 p.m.

12/19   St. Helens                    4 p.m.

1/9       Putnam (at NCAP)     4:30 p.m.

1/16     Liberty (at SHARC)   4 p.m.

1/23     Parkrose                      4 p.m.

1/30     Milwaukie (at NCAP) 7 p.m.

2/6       Sherwood (Tualatin)   4 p.m.

2/13     Districts (at Parkrose) TBD

2/14     Districts (at Parkrose) TBD

2/21     State (at MHCC)        TBD

2/22     State (at MHCC)        TBD

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