With just 10 swimmers, the Lions win the teams first TRL crown since 2004

by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn's Laura Laderoute swims to victory in the 200 IM at last week's district meet at the Lake Oswego pool.The West Linn girls swim team knew it wasn't built to be a dominant dual meet squad this year with its lack of numbers. But what the Lions lacked in depth, they more than made up for in talent.

West Linn figured it would shine at districts and hopefully state but, last weekend at the TRL district meet, the Lions may have even surprised themselves a bit.

The girls team narrowly captured the district title, edging out Lake Oswego 253-249, winning the crown for the first time since 2004, which was coach Katie Wilson's senior year with the team in high school.

“I wasn't expecting to win it. I didn't pack extra clothes for when they threw me in the pool,” Wilson said.

The girls were rolling from the beginning. The medley relay team of Laura Laderoute, Robin Pinger, Brie Balsbough and Sidney Pinger entered the event as heavy favorites and more than lived up to expectations in the finals, touching the wall in 1:47.31 seconds, shattering the district record in the process.

The team is also seeded No. 1 heading into state by more than a second.

“Everyone had best swims in that event and they were pretty happy with their time,” Wilson said.

Sidney Pinger would follow with a second-place finish in the 200 freestyle, crushing her time in the prelims by more than three seconds which was enough to earn her a wild card entry in the event for state.

The 200 individual medley would turn out to be one of the best races of the day. Laderoute, a freshman, had the top time by a wide margin heading into the event but had to fend off an impressive swim from Lakeridge's Brenda Cha at the wall for a victory in 2:06.08.

Laderoute and Cha are also seeded 1-2 heading into state in that event.

In the 50 freestyle, Balsbough came through, turning in very similar times in the prelims and the finals, winning by more than a second in 23.75. Balsbough will be seeded second at state in the event.

In the 100 freestyle, Robin Pinger turned in the fastest time in the prelims and took second in the finals in 53.99 seconds, good enough for an automatic state berth and a fifth-place seed at state.

Sidney Pinger would then finish third in the 500 freestyle in a time of 5:23.56 seconds, earning her a wild card berth at state.

West Linn scored another victory in the 200 freestyle relay when the team of Kylie Norris, Robin Pinger, Brianna Dyrdahl and Balsbough edged out Lake Oswego, winning in 1:40.91, which is the fourth-fastest time heading into state.

The 100 backstroke turned out to be perhaps the most impressive event of the night. The top three finishers in the event all broke the previous district record. Laderoute took third in 56.92 seconds, which has her seeded fifth at state.

The Lions would go 1-2 in the breaststroke, led by Baslbough's district record time of 1:03.98. Robin Pinger took second, nearly cracking 1:07. The pair are seeded first and fourth respectively at state.

Capping off the meet, West Linn turned in four stellar legs in the 400 freestyle relay, besting its time in the prelims by nearly six seconds and finishing second in 3:42.76, earning and automatic berth at state where they have the fifth fastest time.

“Even our girls who swam the 100 free individually beat their times by about a second in the relay,” Wilson said.

Those results would be enough to earn West Linn the district meet title. The Lions swam with just 10 competitors in the event but nine of them scored.

The Lions have high hopes heading into the state meet this Friday and Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College. The team could very easily post a top-three finish and bring home multiple individual awards.

“We're set up pretty well. It'd be tough to win state but this could be the highest a West Linn team has finished in a really long time,” Wilson said.

For the boys, West Linn's medley relay team of Ryan O'Leary, Curtis Klein, Justus Highbarger and Ian Herr finished fourth but snuck into state with a wild card time.

The Lions' 200 freestyle relay team of O'Leary, Highbarger, Parker Kilstrom and Klein did the same, taking second at districts.

Individually, Klein captured the 200 freestyle convincingly in 1:43.62, giving him the third-fastest time heading in the event heading into state where he will battle a pair of very strong swimmers from Sunset.

Klein also scored a lopsided win in the 100 backstroke, winning in 51.88 seconds, narrowly missing the district record he set in the event last year.

He is seeded second in the event heading into state.

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