TIGERS' SWIM SEASON LOOKS PROMISING WITH GOOD TURNOUT
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
A strong turnout bolsters the La Grande swim team this season.
"To lose eight swimmers (seven graduated) and still end up with one more than what we had last year, I think it speaks a lot about the program," coach David Deming said.
There are 10 boys and 17 girls this season. The team heads to Pendleton for its first meet Dec. 7.
Deming said the girls and boys have been very successful, and students become interested in joining the program.
"Kids see that success, and that swimming is a great sport," he said. "Our kids do a great job recruiting other kids. You know they get the best of both worlds, a lot of individual success and to be a part of team success."
Depth may be a concern for the two-time state champions.
"We don't have a lot of depth really because we have a lot of beginners, but we have some real strength," Deming said.
The strength begins with juniors Brenton Dowdy, Owen Kenton and Matt Hibbert. Dowdy and Hibbert were members of last season's state titlist 200 medley relay team. Dowdy captured the 100-yard butterfly state championship.
"With (these) three juniors, if we can put together some solid relays, we stand a good chance of doing well in district and, hopefully, having a strong showing at the state meet," Deming said.
The boys were first at district last season. They won two relay events and brought home two district titles from Dowdy and another from Kenton.
Deming said Dowdy, who was a member of the JV boys basketball team last season, decided to focus on swimming as his one sport this season.
"And definitely, he's a major factor on our team, being the only individual state champion," he said.
Other members of the team are freshman Josef Mielke, sophomores Erik Knight, Peter Harris, Jeremy Younggren, Tyler Howland and Will Clark, and senior foreign exchange student Antoine Stalin.
Deming said he is looking to Younggren to step up and be a big factor in relays and individual events.
"I look for Josef Mielke to be a big factor with his swimming experience," he said. "He could definitely help us put together some strong relays."
Sophomores Kelsey Woodfield and Megan Dickison and junior Elizabeth Esser return with state meet experience.
Esser took sixth in the 500 freestyle at state last season, while Dickison and Woodfield were members of the sixth-place 200 medley relay team.
Deming said a top two finish at district can be met after last season's second-place showing.
The rest of the team consists of seniors Marianne stevold, Natalie White and Liesl Mielke; juniors Hayley Rampton, Bess Buzzard and Nancy Binger; sophomores Amy McMahan, Laura Martin and Jennifer Butler; and freshmen Lindsay Waldrop, Robyn Mills, Samantha Hibbert and Britney Gray.
The freshmen have La Grande Swim Club experience.
"We have a strong group of freshmen," Deming said. "The freshmen will be strong."
He said there are a lot of good underclassmen and the upperclassmen are seasoned to be good athletes.
"Our underclassmen will be solid swimmers here in the next year or two," Deming said.