Four seasons of swimming glory

Camas wins Southwest Washington Invitational by 319.5 points

Camas swimmers put Southwest and Eastern Washington on notice.

The Papermakers racked up 675.5 points to win a 20-school invitational against teams from Vancouver, Brush Prairie, Hockinson, Battle Ground, Woodland, Kelso, Longview, Olympia, Aberdeen, Richland and Walla Walla Saturday, in Longview.

Hanford High School, of Richland, finished 319.5 points behind Camas in second place.

“We knew it was going to be the most competitive meet of the year so far, because those Eastern Washington teams were going to be there,” said co-captain Tom Utas. “We had to step it up. We wanted to make sure we kept that winning streak, and carry it forward to districts and state.”

Camas swimmers set four meet records. Mark Kim clinched first place in the 500-meter freestyle with a record time of 4 minutes, 48.55 seconds.

Utas, Eric Wu, Chris Xia and Kim broke the meet record in the 200 freestyle relay, winning with a time of 1:29.21.

Mark Kim, Jaden Kim, Luke Albert and Finn McClone finished first in the 400 freestyle relay with a meet record time of 3:21.11.

Eric Wu won the 200 individual medley with a record time of 1:56.02.

“It shows what we are really capable of at districts and state,” Mark Kim said of those meet records. “We haven’t even tapered off yet. We’re just working hard and hitting the meets.”

McClone, Wu, Xia and Utas took first place in the 200 medley relay (1:39.44). Mark Kim claimed first place in the 200 freestyle (1:46.14). Jaden Kim followed in third place with a state qualifying time of 1:49.93.

Utas (22.14) and Xia (23.01) finished in first and second place in the 50 free. Utas also won the 100 free (48.69).

On Jan. 25, Camas defeated Union, Mountain View, Heritage and Evergreen to become 4A league champions. Captains Utas, Albert and Jeff Fadlovich have won league all four years of high school.

“I’m very proud of every one on this team, and seeing how far we’ve come with all the swimmers I’ve known for years,” Utas said.

This is the Camas swim team’s favorite time of the year. Districts takes place Feb. 10 and 11, at Kelso High School. State follows Feb. 17 and 18, at the King County Aquatic Center, in Federal Way.

“We’re going to try our hardest and hopefully, maybe get first,” Utas said. “This will be our best shot, and I’m glad I get to be a part of it.”

Mark Kim looks to defend his state titles in the 200 and 500 freestyle races, and help the Papermakers gain some big points in the relay races. He doesn’t want to let his captains down.

“We’ve been swimming together for three years. We’re all really good friends now,” Kim said. “The main thing for them is just pushing through because it’s their last year. They’re still holding strong. It’s going to be really sad when they leave.”

He is also evolving into a leader for the younger Papermakers. He tells the freshmen to stick with the program so they can continue the legacy.

“We make the best out of everything no matter what pool we’re at, how early it is or what the weather is like on the way,” Kim said. “Even if I wasn’t a fast swimmer or a state champion, I would still join the team just to be with these guys.”

Time flies when you’re having fun. Utas wants to make the most of the days he has left to chase glory with his teammates.

“It’s more a community rather than a team. It is still a team, but I feel more like it’s family,” Utas said. “I’ve been with these guys for years and built relationships that will last.”