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LOOKING FOR A BIG YEAR: La Grande's Robyn Mills (Left), will be one of the leaders on the Tiger girls' swim  team this year, while Brenton Dowdy, (Right), one of the best          swimmers in Oregon, is seeking to lead his team to a fourth straight state              championship. (The Observer/File photos).
LOOKING FOR A BIG YEAR: La Grande's Robyn Mills (Left), will be one of the leaders on the Tiger girls' swim team this year, while Brenton Dowdy, (Right), one of the best swimmers in Oregon, is seeking to lead his team to a fourth straight state championship. (The Observer/File photos).

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

Seven La Grande swimmers went to the Stanford swim camp this summer.

"I think all learned invaluable information at that camp," La Grande coach David Deming said.

Owen Ken-ton, Brenton Dowdy, Kelsey Woodfield, Amy McMahan, Lindsay Wal-drop, Elizabeth Esser and Robyn Mills attended the camp.

Deming said they brought back knowledge that not only will help them individually but will benefit everyone else as they prepare for what could be a historic season. The boys will be gunning to win their fourth straight state championship.


Deming said the girls have consistently had depth, but have not had the elite swimmers to go to state and finish high.

He said the key members this season are those that went to state and some up-and-comers. The girls were second at district and sent several to state last season.

Esser finished fifth in the 200 freestyle at state. She also went to state in the 500 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay.

Waldrop, McMahan and Woodfield went to state in the 400 freestyle relay. Waldrop also went to state in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle.

Woodfield, McMahan, Mills and Laura Martin were on the 200 medley relay that went to state. Mills also went to state in the 100 breaststroke.

Deming said all of these girls got stronger during the offseason.

The up-and-coming swimmers are Valerie Butler, Bess Buzzard, Hayley Rampton, Jennifer Butler, Nancy Binger and Britney Gray.

Deming said freshman Valerie Butler is an "extremely strong swimmer (with) very natural ability. She's a four-stroke swimmer."

He said she will be strong in the individual medley and add a great deal of depth.

Deming said Buzzard came on strong last season and Rampton will be strong this year.

He added that Jennifer Butler has a strong work ethic and Gray's strokes have greatly improved.

"I think we'll be right there" at district, Deming said.

Deming said the girls have a strong team with new swimmers.

"I think we have the potential to surprise people," he said.

The coach said he is hoping for a top-two finish at district and qualify more for state.

"We're gaining," Deming said. "Our girls are becoming more versatile."


"I think the kids are confident they can win four," Deming said about the three-time state champions.

However, Deming said the team is not that deep. He said if the boys lose someone to sickness or injury it can be all over.

"Rather than talk about it, we want to get it done, so to speak." he said.

The boys won the district title by one point last season.

The core of the team is the same like last year's — Brenton Dowdy, Matt Hibbert, Owen Kenton, Jeremy Younggren and Josef Mielke.

Hibbert, Mielke, Dowdy and Kenton have the state record in the 200 medley relay.

Kenton, Younggren, Hibbert and Dowdy won the 400 freestyle relay.

Dowdy won the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, while Hibbert won the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.

Deming said he looks for Kenton to be a factor in the breaststroke. He said Kenton found this event at the Stanford swim camp.

He said Younggren continues to improve, and has grown in height and maturity.

"I think he is significantly faster this year than he was last year," Deming said.

He said Mielke will have success in the breaststroke.

"Our relays kind of strengthened a little bit," Deming said.

The Tigers open their season at the Pendleton Invitational Dec. 6.

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