After a banner season of league and district championships and state medals, more boys are jumping into the water to be a part of the Camas-North County high school swimming connection.
In addition to the 42 Papermakers in the pool, head coach Mike Bemis is pleased to have three swimmers from Washougal, 15 for Hockinson, two from Battle Ground, one from Prairie, and the first Woodland High School swimmer to be a part of the program.
“I expect our seniors, juniors and returning sophomores to lead by example, while we wait and see what our freshmen and first-time sophomores are going to do,” Bemis said. “How fast we get those two groups to gel determines how well we are going to do.
“Every year we lose four or five seniors, but then we gain eight or nine freshmen. That’s good balance,” he added. “Hopefully, we can continue to get younger and faster as the years go on. But, so does the competition.”
Leading a decorated list of returning talent are captains Conner Sullivan and Kevin Li. Both are a big part of the team’s depth in the relay races and individual events, along with Alister Graham, Trent Harimoto, Nick Kabel, Parker Ketring, Jeffrey Lee, Nick Panebianco, Hayden Pinney, Joey Stitzel, Tyler Travis, Ian Ulmer and Jake Yraceburu.
“It feels good to be a part of this program,” Sullivan said. “It feels like we’re accomplishing something every year. And then the next year, we want to top that.”
“Our goals are to get as many guys as we can to districts and state, and increase our team spirit at competitions,” Li said. “We want to completely blow other teams out of the water. That means developing team cheers, chants and everything.”
It all starts this afternoon, when the Papermakers host Kelso for the first meet of the season. Races begin at 3:30 p.m., at Grass Valley Aquatics Center next to LaCamas Swim & Sport. Camas also competes in a sprint pentathlon Saturday, at Mark Morris High School in Longview. Bemis looks forward to the league meets with Columbia River (Dec. 16 at Propstra Pool) and Mountain View (Jan. 20 at Grass Valley).
“League and districts are going to come down to match ups. I think we have the edge, as long as everybody stays healthy, strong, gets good grades and continues to improve,” Bemis said. “We still have to get those thirds, fourths and fifths, or seconds, thirds and fourths, to get the most points in each event.”
Nathan Milojevic is back to represent Washougal, along with his younger brother Chris and fellow Panther Taylor Nightgate. Bemis would love to have a fourth swimmer from Washougal so the team could compete in the relay races.
Hockinson’s Callum Mackintosh finished second at state in the 200-meter individual medley and the 100 butterfly. He is back to lead the Hawks, along with Cooper Budden, Dylan Butler, Nicholas Carrsow and Alyosha Wehman.
Josh Risley hopes to make a name for Woodland in swimming.
“After two weeks of training hard, these kids are ready to race,” Bemis said. “All of them have great attitudes, and they are willing to work hard. I guess you could say we are putting money in the bank.”