The last week has been anything but normal for the La Grande swim team.
Several members of the girls team spent the week sick. Lineups for Saturday’s home swim meet, as a result, were changed. And inclement weather that resulted in a closure of Interstate 84 kept several teams from making the trip to the meet.
Despite everything that popped up during the week, the Tigers did what they have become accustomed to doing: winning.
Riana Scott, Kristal Jensen, Kennedy Kruse, Garren Dutto and Caden Ricker all won four races, and La Grande won 19 of the 22 contested events to cruise to victory.
With the meet adjustments, La Grande head coach Darren Dutto said his team took the opportunity to focus more on fundamentals the Tigers might not have been able to otherwise.
“I actually got all the kids together at the end of warmups, and what I told them was because it’s a smaller meet, we need to focus on working on those things that are going to require us to swim well at districts, (and) to approach each race with the mindset of, ‘What do I need to do to improve on for the district meet in two weeks,” he said.
A large portion of the girls team got sick after last weekend’s meet in Hood River, including both Scott and Romayne Ricker, two of the Tigers’ top competitors. Ricker, in fact, was still unable to compete Saturday, which resulted in some lineup changes.
“It was really different without her and without the usual team dynamic,” said Scott, who was still not 100 percent. “But I was really happy with how we all performed, considering the circumstances and considering how sick everyone was. I’m happy with how things came out. (And) even though not all the teams were here, we still had fun and we still enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t what we thought it would be.”
The LHS girls went on to win 10 races and finish with 181 points. Baker, the only other team to make it on the girls side, scored 64 points.
Scott, Jensen and Kruse dominated in the pool. The trio was part of the winning teams in the girls 200 medley relay (2:03.26) along with Aryana Bouten, and the winning 400 freestyle relay team (4:12.03) with Tulea Setser. Individually, Scott took first in the 200 individual medley (2:24.75) and in the 100 backstroke (1:06.78). Jensen won the 50 freestyle (26.93 seconds) and the 100 butterfly (1:04.70). Kruse, meanwhile, won the 200 freestyle (2:11.86) and the 500 freestyle (5:49.71).
“We have a lot of resilience,” Jensen said in regard to the meet changes. “A lot of people have been super sick (but) we can still come together and win a meet and still throw random relays together (to win). It shows how determined and how hard working we are to have put random stuff together and still show we can go out there and get it done.”
Anna Gambill added two wins for the LHS girls, taking the top spot in the 100 freestyle (1:08.12) and in the 100 breaststroke (1:20.37) winning the latter race by just 0.04 seconds over teammate Abbey Tweten.
On the boys side, Garren Dutto picked up individual victories in the 200 IM with a meet record time of 2:01.69, and also won the 500 freestyle in 4:58.34. Caden Ricker took the top spot in the 50 freestyle (24.66 seconds) and in the 100 freestyle (54.22). The pair also teamed up with Lance Denny and Dan Felley to win the 200 medley relay (1:49.65) and with Nolan Clements and Makhail Tritchka to take first in the 200 freestyle relay (1:38.28).
Clements, Felley and Denny were also on the winning 400 freestyle relay team (3:49.28) along with Grayson Jensen. Clements added an individual victory in the 100 backstroke (59.22) and Denny took the 100 breaststroke (1:04.73).
The Tigers finished with 160 points. Baker (54) was second and Nyssa, which had one swimmer, scored 12 points for third.
Clements, a senior, said the change in the number of teams changed the pressure at the meet.
“I always think that bigger meets (where there’s) a lot more competition, you’re a lot more nervous,” he said. “Sometimes it makes you swim faster, but a meet like this when there’s not so many teams...is much more low key, but there is that pressure from your friends to say let’s go swim fast. Instead of, ‘Oh I have to swim fast, this is really scary,’ I’ve got the whole backing of the entire team.”
The Tigers are off until the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A Special District 2 meet Feb. 9 and 10 in Madras.
“I’m going to have to do some thinking of where to plug in people at district,” Darren Dutto said. “I think in the individual events I’m coming to some consensus of where I want to put people. The relays are hard. How am I going to structure relays for the best chance to both do well at district and then hopefully qualify for state? That’s the big guess right now.”