Camas swimmers dominate district meet with inspiring performances

Camas senior Ben Taylor catches his breath after winning a 100-meter freestyle preliminary race at the District 4 championship meet in Kelso on Feb. 7. Taylor won the district title for the 50 freestyle after overcoming reconstructive knee surgery.

Camas senior Jaiden Kim says he's ready to win a state championship in the 100 butterfly after finishing second in state as a freshman and third as a sophomore and junior.

Camas Senior Ben Taylor receives some last-minute advice from coach Mike Bemis at the District 4 championship meet in Kelso on Feb 7.

Camas boys swimming and diving captains Jaiden Kim (left) and Luke Bales (right) fire up their teammates at the District 4 championship meet in Kelso on Feb. 7.

It takes a lot to impress head Camas boys swimming and diving coach Mike Bemis, a man revered by athletes for his caring, “tough-love” philosophy.

He was definitely impressed with his team’s performance at the District 4 meet in Kelso on Feb. 7-8.

“This was an excellent meet,” he said. “I mean, they beat my prediction by 13 points. They were all helping each other to get the times needed to go to state.”

Seven Papermakers earned their way to the upcoming 4A state meet as Camas won the district championship with a team score of 326. Union was second with 261 and Hanford finished third with 184.

Taylor crushes expectations after knee surgery

When the season started, senior Ben Taylor couldn’t even dive into a pool. He sustained a knee injury last year in a wrestling class, but kept swimming until the pain was too much to take. Eventually he underwent surgery to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament.

In just his third meet back, Taylor knocked three seconds off his personal best time in the 100 freestyle and won the district title in the 50 freestyle, earning the opportunity to compete in both events at the 4A state meet, to be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21-22 at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

“(Rehabilitating my knee) was a lot of hard work, and I want to thank all the people in physical therapy who have helped me work towards this, and of course my teammates who always push for me to get better,” Taylor said.

Camas senior captains Jaiden Kim and Luke Bales said that Taylor’s inspiring efforts helped to keep the entire team energized and focused throughout the two-day event.

“It’s absolutely crazy what (Taylor) has been able to accomplish,” said Bales, who qualified for the state meet in the 50 freestyle. “It’s been absolutely incredible to watch.”

Camas junior Jack Harris, who won the 200 freestyle and the 100 freestyle events, said that Taylor’s intense dedication to the team pushed everyone to new heights.

“I’m so thankful to everyone, also coach Mike (Bemis), for pushing us,” Harris said. “I’m grateful to everyone and I’m excited to keep improving and to do well at state.”

Kim qualifies for state for fourth consecutive season

Kim took the Washington high school swim world by storm four years ago as a freshman when he finished second in the 100 butterfly event at the 4A state meet. As a sophomore and junior he finished third in the same event, but hopes to bring home the state title for his senior season.

“It’s just crazy how quickly time flies and how things change over four years of high school,” said Kim, whose older brother Mark helped Camas win two state titles and is currently swimming for the United States Military Academy West Point. “But this year we are the ones holding everyone up, and we are going out there and not only trying to be the best we can be, but we want to be the best.”

Kim’s younger brother Nathan, a freshman, kept the family tradition rolling by qualifying for the state meet in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke. Alex Duma qualified for the state meet in the 100 butterfly, and David Peddie qualified in the 200 and 500 freestyle events, bringing the number of individual Camas state qualifiers to seven.

The Papermakers will also send three relay teams to Federal Way.

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