Swim teams from Camas and Washougal overcame some tricky hurdles this season to earn a ticket to the state swimming championships, held in Federal Way, Washington, Nov. 9 and Nov. 10.
Under the tutelage of head swim coach Mike Bemis, the girls from Camas and Washougal put on a good show at the biggest high school swim event in Washington.
The Camas team finished in 20th place in the 4A division, while Washougal finished 26th in the 2A division — an impressive feat, considering that the Washougal program is just 3 years old.
A season of new challenges
The girls swim season began with a challenging surprise. After many years of practicing and competing at the Lacamas Athletic Club, school district leaders in Camas and Washougal could not come to an agreement with the Camas athletic club. That meant swimming programs in both districts had to move to a smaller outdoor pool at the Cascade Athletic Club in East Vancouver.
Instead of practicing indoors, after school, the young swimmers found themselves having to practice at 5:30 a.m. and 7:15 p.m. For some Washougal families, that meant waking up at 4:30 a.m., just to get to the pool on time.
Adding to the challenging training schedule, Camas divers Irelyn and Shea Mcgee needed to go to Kelso, Washington — a full 50 miles away from Camas — to practice at a pool that had a diving facility.
This is Bemis’ 16th year coaching Camas swimmers and his third year coaching the Washougal team.
“I would practice at 5:30 in the morning, and then drive the divers to Kelso three days a week in the afternoons before returning to Cascade (Athletic Club) to help assistant coach Leslie Levesque with evening practice,” Bemis said while standing next to the steaming, outdoor pool on a 40-degree evening, one day before his teams’ trip to state. “It was a fun and busy season.”
Washougal swim team doubles in size
Three years ago, the swim team from Washougal consisted of just two athletes who practiced each day with the Camas team. This season, there were 13 Washougal swimmers on the team.
“This is the first time that Washougal competed at district with a full team making all the relays,” Bemis said.
The 200 relay team of Kyra Schmid, Kaylin Schmid, Lily Seitz and Charlotte Baker went on to qualify for state and finish in 15th place. Charlotte Baker also finished 15th in the 100 individual freestyle.
Camas competed against an extra fast field of swimmers
Bemis said Washington state swimmers were unusually fast this year. To put it in perspective, the times for 20th place would have landed a team a 12th place finish the previous year.
The extra-competitive environment made it tougher to qualify for state this year, but the Papermakers’ 200 medley team of Mia Kamenko, Kristina Perian, Bailey Segall and Peaton Lessor made it to the state finals and finished in 16th place.
Peaton Lessor advanced to Saturday’s championship finals, finishing 15th in the 200 individual medley and eighth in the 100 freestyle. All those trips to the Kelso pool worked out for Irelyn McGee, who finished sixth in 1-meter diving.
“All our girls did really well this year, and I’m very proud of them and what they accomplished,” Bemis said.
There will be no time to celebrate for coach Bemis, though. Less than eight hours after he drove the teams back from Federal Way in a van Sunday evening, the coach was back at the outdoor pool at Cascade Swim Club at 5:30 a.m. for the first practice of the season for the Camas and Washougal boys swim teams.