The Camas and Washougal high school boys swimmers are working double and triple time during the holiday break for more state championship glory.
“This is the hard part of our training. This is what I like to call ‘going into the pit,'” said head coach Mike Bemis. “They are going to be asked to do a lot, and do it very tired with the whole idea of, ‘This is how we’re going to get out of the pit and get ready for league, districts and state.'”
After finishing in second place at state in 2015 with a bunch of seniors, and fourth place at state in 2016 with just underclassmen, the Papermakers are determined to find ways to win the whole thing.
“I say we get first,” said senior Jeff Fadlovich. “It’s been a fun four years, and I’ve loved every minute of it with my swim team. Getting first at state would be a great way to end my high school career.”
Camas has all of its major players back in the pool, with a new crop of freshmen to boot.
Mark Kim returns after winning individual state titles in the 200- and 500-meter freestyle swims.
“At the beginning of the season, coach said I had a target on my back,” Kim said. “The only thing on my mind right now is defending those titles. I hate coming to practice in the winter, but the ultimate goal of becoming state champions gets me out here every day. It’s all I strive for.”
While remaining a valuable asset in the relay races, senior Tom Utas took second place at state in the 100 freestyle and fourth place in the 50 freestyle.
Luke Albert, Eric Wu, Utas and Kim claimed fifth place at state in the 200 freestyle relay. Albert, Chris Xue, Kim and Utas finished sixth in the 400 freestyle relay.
Albert competed in track during the spring and cross country in the fall with the goal of getting in better shape for his senior year of high school swimming.
“I have been doing this for seven years and I want to finish strong,” he said. “This is what I need to do to do it.”
Levi Collins joined Washougal swimmers Daniel Brown, Isaiah Ross and Landon Schmid. Now, the Panthers have the four swimmers they need to compete in the relay races.
“We haven’t had one for Washougal. I think it’s going to be fun,” Ross said. “If all four of us can get to state on a relay, whoa! That would be cool.”
Ross earned Washougal’s first state medal when he finished in fifth place in the 500 freestyle. After that eye-opening experience, he is attending three practices a day to get back there.
“It gets tiring, but I want to get better,” Ross said.
The dedication is already there. Bemis hopes to find a few more hidden gems that can push the Panthers and Papermakers over the top at those tight meets.
“We’ve got a lot of personalities on this team. Bringing them together is going to be a fun challenge,” Bemis said. “If we can all get there at the same time, we could be looking at our best year ever.”