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La Grande freshman Bryce Ebel edged Corbett senior Phillip Hewitt for the gold in the 100-meter butterfly Saturday.
by MIKE WEBER for The Observer
Freshman grabs the gold in 100-meter butterfly as La Grande puts eight swimmers in championships
GRESHAM — The La Grande High Tigers boys and girls swim team capped the season with a strong performance in the Class 4A OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires Swimming State Championships Friday and Saturday in Gresham.
Coach Darren Dutto’s 10-member state-qualifying Tiger squad brought home a basket full of medals, a prestigious fifth-place team trophy (girls) and an individual state championship as freshman Bryce Ebel won the boys 100-yard butterfly with a gold-medal winning time of 53.26 seconds.
“I’m extremely proud of our team. They’re just a great group of kids,” said Dutto, who has guided Tiger swimmers to five state championships in his eight-year career at La Grande. “For such a young team (six freshman), they really swam to the best of their ability. I was pleased with the way everything turned out and came together for us.”
A total of eight Tiger swimmers advanced to Saturday’s championship finals after strong efforts in Friday’s preliminary events at the Mount Hood Community College Aquatic Center. Ebel finished with three medal-winning swims.
Ebel took fifth in the 50 free with a personal record time of 22.87 seconds. Ebel combined with teammates Emmit Ambert, Keegan Dutto (Darren’s son) and his twin brother Josh to help lead La Grande to fifth place in the 200-medley relay (1:50.17).
“I just feel like I’m on cloud nine right now or maybe even higher because it’s super exciting to win a state championship and it fulfills all my expectations,” said Bryce Ebel. “I was hoping to win, but Phillip Hewitt (Corbett senior) provided me with great competition in the race. It’s just the greatest feeling in the world to win and it’s definitely the highlight of my career.”
Hewitt took second place, just six one-hundredths of a second behind Ebel at 53.32 seconds.
It marked the second straight year a Tiger boys swimmer won an individual title. La Grande’s Matt Cook won the 200 free and the 100 backstroke last year.
Josh Ebel earned two medals as he also took fourth in the 200 IM, swimming to a fast PR time of 2:09.61. Ambert, a three-time state qualifier as a junior, and Keegan Dutto earned fifth places medals in the relay. Freshman Dean Ricker, a state relay qualifier with the Ebel brothers and Ambert, just missed advancing to finals. La Grande took seventh Friday in the 200 free prelims (1:38.90) behind finals qualifier Sweet Home (1:38.60). Only the top-six in prelims advance to finals. The Tiger boys took seventh in team scoring with 16 points.
The seven-time District 2 Champion Lady Tigers, led by returning state qualifiers junior Becca Haynes and sophomore Shelby Baker, had an impressive effort too with a total of five top-four finals finishes. Haynes and Baker, who were members of the 2012 state champion girls 400 free relay squad, swam even faster in that event this year. They combined with the freshmen duo of Hannah Roberts and Abbey Felley to swim to third in the 400 at 3:48.08. Haynes, Baker and graduated seniors Logan Gomez and Allie Godfrey won in 2012 with a time of 3:49.30.
“Even though we got third, we’re pretty happy because we swam faster than we did last year and we had a good race,” said Haynes, a state qualifier in four events (two individuals, two relays) for a third consecutive year. “We were hoping to win, but third is OK and I’m proud of our team. It was nice winning a relay gold medal last year, but I’ve never won an individual state title, so that’s my goal for next year.”
Haynes took second in the 200 free (2:01.46), fourth in the backstroke (1:03.06) and she helped lead the Tigers to eighth in the 200 medley relay (2:02.07) prelims on Friday. Baker, like Haynes, earned three medals as she took second in the 50 free, swimming to a PR of 25.88 seconds and she was fifth in the 100 free (56.91).
“We had a pretty good day and I’m glad I got second and fifth in individual events,” said Baker. “We’re a young team though and it’s exciting to think that we’ll very likely be back here again next year with another strong team.”
In the initial round of the 9 a.m. preliminary events Friday, the Ebel brothers, swam strong as Josh took fourth in the 200 IM (2:11.30) and Bryce was second in the 50 free (23.06). Haynes took first in heat one of the 200 free prelim (2:01.48) and Baker advanced to finals after a first place finish in heat 2 of the 50 free (26.06).
“It’s exciting to see Bryce win a state championship and since he’s a freshman, he’ll have an opportunity to possibly win multiple state titles in his career,” said Darren Dutto. “Having my son Keegan on the team was special this year, because I was always looking forward to coaching one of my own kids. Keegan did a great job this year and I’m really proud of him.”
Tiger swimmers who earned alternate positions at the state meet but who didn’t swim included senior Amber Mullarkey and juniors Jasmine Smith and Moriah Brown. Mullarkey is the only senior on the 12-member boys and girls Tiger swim teams.
“I have high expectations for our swimmers every year,” said Darren Dutto. “Everyone met or exceeded my expectations and they just did a great job. I was glad to see kids lower time in their events and qualify for the finals. We’ve really set ourselves up to have a strong team for the next couple of years, which is really great for these kids.”
Overall it was just a remarkable accomplishment for the Tigers as all their hard work payed off at the conclusion of an immensely successful year. The 14-week grueling practice schedule included three and a half miles of swimming in early morning practice sessions from 5:30-7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.
La Grande Girls Results - 200 Free: 2. Becca Haynes, 2:01.46. 50 Free: 2. Shelby Baker, 25.88. 100 Free: 5. Baker, 56.91. 100 Back: 4. Haynes, 1:03.06. 400 Free Relay: 3. La Grande 3:48.08 - Hannah Roberts, Becca Haynes, Abbey Felley, Shelby Baker. Team Scoring (Top 10): 1. North Bend 45. 2. Phoenix 44. 2. Henley 44. 4. Valley Catholic 27. 5. La Grande 23. 5. Madras 23. 7. Sisters 18. 7. Sweet Home 18. 7. Salem Academy 18. 10. Ridgeview 15.
La Grande Boys Results - 200 Medley Relay: 5. La Grande 1:50.17 - Keegan Dutto, Josh Ebel, Bryce Ebel, Emmit Ambert. 200 IM: 4. Josh Ebel, 2:09.61. 50 Free: 5. Bryce Ebel, 22.87. 100 Fly: 1. Bryce Ebel, 53.26. Team Scoring (Top 10): 1. Madras 59. 2. Newport 53. 3. Cottage Grove 32. 4. Philomath 27. 5. Riverdale 19. 6. La Salle 18. 7. La Grande 16. 8. Rainier 14. 8. Seaside 14. 10. Corbett 12.
A three pointer by Brown followed by a blocked shot and dunk by Johanson with three minutes left to play put the Mountaineers up 64-50. Both teams would then clear their benches with just over a minute to play as the Mountaineers would go on to win their eleventh game in a row.