by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset boys senior swimmer Johnathan Zoucha took the 100 butterfly, 200 free and helped the Apollo 200 medley and 400 free relay teams win as well.

The Sunset boys’ swimming team can smell it.

It’s one meet away. Two strong days from everlasting glory. A singular chance to do what so few schools have ever done in the history of Oregon high school swimming.

What the Apollos can accomplish under the domed Mount Hood Community College pool this coming Friday and Saturday, winning a fourth straight title to cement themselves as one of the fabled programs in the state archives, is touchable.

Yet, the famed four-peat wouldn’t have had the same meaning without Sunset flexing its sinewy muscles at the Metro League Championship and punctuating a fantastic footnote to what the Apollos hope is a glorious final chapter to their lore.

Sunset staunched a strong challenge from Jesuit, who was more than game for preventing the three-time defending state champion Apollos from going undefeated, and won another Metro title, 449-414, versus the Crusaders.

“Even though we lost five seniors from last year, I’d still say we’ve represented Sunset pretty well,” said Sunset sophomore Tristan Furnary. “We’re definitely going for four next week. We’re going to do it for (Jonathan Zoucha) because that’d be pretty cool to be a four-time state champion. It’s definitely about the team points. That’s it.”

Furnary, Blake Hulstrom, Johnathan Zoucha and Josh Noll got the day underway with a 1:37.47 win in the 200 medley relay to spark off a strong day of swims across the Apollo lineup.

“Winning that relay set the team up with good motivation for the rest of the day,” said Zoucha. “I think this sets us up really nicely for state, getting everybody motivated. We’ll have fairly nice practices going in. We’ll be nice and rested and ready to race.”

Zoucha won the 200 free (1:40.47), 100 butterfly (50.81) and was part of the winning 400 free relay. Zoucha was after a couple of meet records, but was happy with a pair of seasonal bests in the 200 free and 100 butterfly. The 200 free pool record— which Zoucha actually set as a junior—was tougher to claim on Saturday because there wasn’t a fellow top racer to compete with and catch from behind. Noll took second in the 200 free (1:42).

“I’m used to being the underdog,” said Zoucha. “I like to go out last, and come back first. Not having someone to comeback against is pretty tough for me to handle. But, it’s actually good practice for me to go out fast and hold that pace. It was a good training experience for me.”

The future Louisville Cardinal said being the dark horse and shocking the field satisfies his competitive motor more than snatching the lead early and swimming away to an easy lead. When there’s someone next to Zoucha, breathing down his back and battling tooth-and-nail, that’s when the Apollo senior star tends to shine brightest.

“It’s the sense of competition for me,” noted Zoucha. “I always like to be neck-and-neck with everyone and make it more competitive. I kind of like to put on a show for myself to enjoy. And, people get really excited when that happens. It’s motivation for me.”

Zoucha stated his win in the 100 fly could’ve been faster if he’d held out longer in the last 50 yards. His career best time would’ve beat the pool record, yet with a week of hard training behind him after missing four days because of the snowy weather, Zoucha said he was pleased with his district performance and ready to look ahead to state.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset boys swimmer Tristan Furnary took second in the 100 backstroke, won the 100 free and was part of two winning relays for the Apollos.

In the 100 free preliminaries on Friday, Furnary slipped off the block and hurt his foot diving into the water. On Saturday, Furnary got a much better grip, which helped him get a better start and stay with Southridge’s Matt Braun, in the first 50 yards. Then on the third turn, the Apollo sophomore got a couple yards of distance between himself and Braun which ended up being the difference at the wall. Furnary worked the underwaters and maintained a fast tempo against Braun who was in the lane directly to his left.

“I was sneaking a peek at him every once in a while,” said Furnary. “The last 25 (yards) I could see he was really coming hard on me. So, I just put my head down over the last 10 yards and finished the race with no breaths. From the wall, I didn’t get a very good push-off or anything, but I just dug deep and made it happen.”

Furnary also took second in the 100 backstroke (50.86). Brandon Esping placed second in the 50 free (22.04) while Noll was third in the 500 free (4:51). Esping, Zoucha, Noll and Furnary closed out the district meet with a 3:10.21 win in the 400 relay.

Though Zouch, Furnary, Noll, Hulstrom and Esping all get the lion’s share of the credit for their talents in the pool, Furnary gave head coach Adam Farber a big thumbs-up for his efforts, not only this year but dating back to when Sunset started scorching Metro. It was Farber who stayed up late, scouring opponents’ times and rosters, looking for races his Apollos could enter and not only do well in, but score points. He was the puppeteer behind the scenes, pulling the right strings with a loaded, talented lineup that swept every Metro dual meet and stiff-armed Jesuit at districts.

“It says Farber is a really good coach,” said Furnary. “Even though he doesn’t really develop the guys that who winning the events, he’s the one who’s crunching the numbers and figuring out which event everyone should go in. He’s basically the mastermind of getting the most points, so shout out to him for doing a great job.”

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