Earning state trophies has recently become the norm for both the La Grande boys and La Grande girls swimming teams. The LHS boys have placed in the top two each of the last three years, topped off with a state title in 2016. The LHS girls, meanwhile, have placed in the top four each of the last four years, twice in that run taking third (2015, 2017).
Both teams are in position to contend for a state trophy again this weekend at the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A state meet, which begins today in Gresham and continues Saturday.
“Having done this for a while, a swimming program will build on (past) success,” head coach Darren Dutto said. “The kids come to realize they can be a part of it.”
The La Grande boys are taking seven athletes to the state meet, two of which have legitimate chances to come away with a state title. Garren Dutto enters the meet seeded first in two events, the boys 100 freestyle (48.12 seconds at district) and boys 100 backstroke (55.66), based on his times from last weekend’s district meet.
“Garren is in a good position,” Darren Dutto said. “He swam well last weekend, probably better than we expected. He’s tapered for this week, (so) we’re looking for some good swims.”
Lance Denny, the defending state champion in the boys 100 breaststroke, is in position to repeat in the event after posting the state’s best time at districts (1:01.73) and entering the state meet as the top seed.
The Tigers are also in position to place well in the boys 200 medley relay. La Grande’s time of 1:45.32 at district was good for the third seed headed into state. La Grande is also seeded in scoring position in the boys 400 freestyle relay, where La Grande enters sixth (3:31.27). And individually, Nolan Clements is sixth in the boys 500 freestyle (5:15.87).
Any scoring beyond that for the Tigers would be bonus points with several individuals and relays currently seeded outside the top six. Those athletes, though, could give La Grande a boost if they can crack into the top six in today’s preliminaries to reach the finals Saturday.
“Guys side it’s going to be hard,” Dutto said of trying to move up. “If (someone) could sneak in an additional event into the top six I’d be happy. Nolan has been looking really good. He has a shot of moving up in both events. Dan (Felley) also has a possibility.”
On the team side, North Bend and Newport are the early favorites, projected to score 59 and 58 points, respectively, on the district times. Salem Academy (40 points) is projected third, with La Grande (32 points) projected to take fourth.
The LHS girls are also projected to take fourth, and, interestingly, are also projected to score 32 points. Catlin Gabel, which has the top seed in seven of the 11 events, is projected to take first with 70 points. North Bend (56 points) projects into second place. Sweet Home (50 points) is third and Sisters (32 points) is tied with La Grande.
Like the boys, the LHS girls are taking seven competitors to state. The Tiger girls have four top-three seeds, led by Romayne Ricker’s No. 2 seed in the girls 100 breaststroke (1:09.71 at district). Riana Scott is seeded third in two events: the girls 200 individual medley (2:12.61) and the girls 100 backstroke (1:01.96). Kristal Jensen is ranked third in the girls 100 butterfly (1:01.33). Two of the La Grande relay teams are also in position to pull in some points, with the girls 200 freestyle relay seeded third (1:44.74) and the girls 200 medley relay fourth (1:55.56).
Ricker is also seeded in the 100 freestyle, ranked sixth with a time of 57.01.
“The kids that are up there are going to have to fight to stay up there,” Dutto said. “It’s a fast deep field on the girls side.
“If we came away with any top three finishes I’d be pleased (considering) the depth of the field.”
The preliminaries begin this afternoon at Mt. Hood Community College. The finals begin at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do,” Dutto added. “The kids are ready. They’ve been looking good this week.”