When it comes to academics, competition and teamwork, the Camas High School boys swimmers are worth their weight in gold.
The three-time academic state champions captured their fourth straight district title by a 153-point margin Saturday, at Kelso High School.
Kasey Calwell, Lucas Ulmer and Mark Kim brought home four first place medals, but their favorite part of the day was standing on the podium with the big trophy at the end of the meet.
“Everyone contributed to this. It makes all of us proud to stand up there together,” Ulmer said.
“The team just represented Camas and the community well,” Calwell added. “From the freshmen to our seniors, we wouldn’t be able to do this without every single one of us.”
If they had to choose one swimmer on the team that embodies the spirit of the Papermakers, it would be Brian Andrade. The 14-year-old doesn’t let autism slow him down in the water.
“He’s probably the most inspirational kid out there,” Ulmer said. “He kept up with us every single day in practice and during the meets. If he’s out there doing it, everybody can do it. They just have to put in the effort like Brian does every day.”
Even though the other 18 swimmers on the team already qualified for the district meet, a few of them came to sub-districts to watch Andrade swim for the last time. They cheered for him and took pictures.
“He stopped to smile for the camera and then just kept on swimming,” John Utas said. “He shows up to practice every day with a smile on his face. Some days, I don’t want to go because I’m too tired or cold. But he never misses a day. It’s really motivational for the team.”
Katie Andrade said her son started taking lessons at LaCamas Swim & Sport at the age of 4. He joined Special Olympics two years later, and achieved regional and state medals.
“Typically, people who have autism are attracted to swimming because it helps with their sensory issues,” Katie said. “He has always been a water guy.”
Katie said swimming with the Papermakers gave Brian a sense of belonging to his high school. She thanked his teammates and coaches for their support. He looks forward to swimming with them again next winter.
“They are smart, dedicated to swimming, amazing athletes and, in addition, are kind and compassionate human beings,” Katie said. “Our hope was that Brian would be able to participate in a sport he loved. It turned out more wonderful than we could have dreamed.”
The results from the district meet sent shock waves across the state.
Camas racked up 96 points in the three relay races. Calwell, John Utas, Ulmer and Tom Utas won the 200 medley relay in 1:40.27. John Utas, Tom Utas, Ulmer and Kim earned first place in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:29.49. Kim, Luke Albert, Jeff Fadlovich and Calwell clinched first place in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:21.33.
The Papermakers put 53 points on the board in the 100 backstroke. Ulmer won the race in 56.56 seconds, followed by Fadlovich (57.20) and Finn McClone (58.35). Max Urbanek took sixth place (1:01.81) and Nicholas Burton notched 10th place (1:05.47).
Camas earned 49 points in the 200 freestyle. Kim won in 1:46.42. Albert (1:53.66), McClone (1:56.91) and Noah Macia (1:59.07) snatched third, fourth and fifth place.
The Papermakers added 48 points in the 100 butterfly. Ulmer won in 53.04 seconds. Urbanek (58.97) and Andrey Khabibrakhmanov (59.39) finished in third and fourth place. Burton grabbed sixth place (1:01.69).
Kim, Fadlovich, Max Crowson and Ian Pinch helped the Papermakers gain 44 points in the 500 freestyle. Kim won the race in 4:47.46, followed by Fadlovich (5:07.03) and Crowson (5:24.17). Pinch placed 10th (6:14.77).
Calwell claimed first place in the 200 individual medley (1:56.11) and the 100 breaststroke (59.08). Tom Utas secured third place with state qualifying times in the 50 freestyle (22.84) and the 100 freestyle (49.62).
Calwell, Ulmer and John Utas have been dreaming about winning state championship medals since they joined the Camas swimming program four years ago. Once they get to the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way Friday, they know the competition doubles and triples in size and difficulty.
“We’re all excited to compete at an even higher level,” Calwell said. “No one on this team is afraid out there. That’s what I love about them.”
Ulmer said the key for these swimmers is to embrace these final practices, and keep pushing until they get kicked out of the pool.
“We want to be remembered as a great teamwork team that had the most inspiring people on it and brought back some great memories,” he said. “We woke every morning and made the best of it. Everything we accomplished, we did together.”