By Ossie Bladine • Editor • 

Power in numbers

Swimming is, more the most part, an individual sport, right? 

Not so for the McMinnville High School boys and girls swim teams, said Jason Hafner after the Grizzlies completed a sweep of the Pacific Conference district championship on Saturday at the McMinnville Aquatic Center.

"I like how the team yelled for each other -- a lot of (junior varisty) kids were there Saturday rooting on teammates," Hafner said. "They all have to come together and push each other in practice. It's definitely a team win."

Both squads qualified all three relays for the state meet, which begins Friday at Mt. Hood Community College. The team also earned five individual races for the girls and six for the boys.

The boys won their seventh straight Pacific Conference Championship by scoring 459 points to second-place Newberg's 337 and third-place Century's 239. 

For the girls, it was a return to top of the podium. After last winning the district meet in 2011, the girls squad placed second behind Tualatin the next two years. On Saturday, they outscored the Timberwolves by nearly 100 points, finishing with 413 to Tualatin's 415. Century finished third with 301. 

"I was really happy to see (the girls) have the success," Hafner said. "They've kind of been on the backburner while the guys have been successful and swimming at a high level for several years in a row."

Teams can enter four racers into each event at the district meet, and every girl who swam qualified for Saturday's finals and scored for the Grizzlies. Hafner said it was the first time he knows of that has happened. 

"That’s attests to how deep we are," the coach said. On top of that, he added, several girls relegated to junior varsity swims likely would have scored in the varsity events. "That's a pretty good way to end the Pacific Conference season."

Hafner said he knew depth would be key for a district win for the girls, as it was for them to be co-champions with Tualatin of the duel meet season.

"Every race you were watching, the girls were in the race," Hafner said. "In the close finishes, our girls were tending to outtouch and that's what you're looking for."

The girls won handily despite not winning any events. 

Senior Erika Sato finished second 200-yard freestyle (51.66) and third in the 100-yard free (54.28), both automatic state qualifying times. Freshman Rosie Porter finished fourth in the 100-yard free, and her time of 56.26 earned a state wild card spot.

Junior Molli Hartzell earned two state wild card spots, one in the 100-yard butterfly (1:00.32, third place) and another in the 100-yard backstroke Molli Hartzell (1:02.08, fourth place).

Hafner said most girls had to make some sacrifices for the better of the team.

"A lot of them had at least one event that wasn't their favorite," he said. "The way we set it up was the best for the team. They went in with really good attitudes."

Chloe Zinda, Mari Sato, Malia Riggs and Sydney Stern kicked the finals off with a third place finish in the 200-yard medley relay, and a state qualifying time of 1:57.86. 

Hartzell, Porter, Carlisle and Erika Sato finished second in the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:42.03), and Erika Sato, Hartzell, Mari Sato and Rosie Porter finished second in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:44.06). 

Going down the list of times, Hafner kept added swimmers who swam lifetimes bests: Justine Ecker broke the minute in the 100-yard free; Carlisle has lifetime bests in the 50-yard free and 100-yard fly; Emma Beyer did the same in the 200-yard and 500-yard free races; Dakota Buhler and Rebekah Wood swam best times in the 50-yard free nad 100-yard back ...

And the list continued on the boys side: Nic McDaniel in the 50-yard and 200-yard free; Mac Hayes in both his events; Elliot Morrison, Ehren Cahill, Brad Hessel ...

"In a nutshell, there was a high percentage of best times," Hafner said. 

On the boys side, Alex Foutch, Hayes, Hessel and Stephen Gilliat placed third in the 200-yard medley relay with a state-qualifying time of 1:42.27. Hafner said it was important for the foursome to earn a state spot as the Grizzly boys aim for a spot on the podium this weekend. 

"That was a really good race. That was a really big swim," Hafner said. "Anytime you get three relays in, that's really good."

Mac's other two relays took home district gold. 

Tristean Versteeg, Owen Binkerd, Hessel and Jacob Porter beat Newberg's foursome by a tenth of a second in the 200-yard freestyle, finishing in 1:30.25.

The 400-free relay came down to the wire, too. Versteeg, Binkerd, Gilliat and Porter won it in 3:16.13, the fourth fastest qualifying time headed into state.

"Our relays were not as fast as they're going to be at state," Hafner said. Several swimmers weren't fully rested and didn't shave for the district meet "The top guys are really focused on state."

Versteeg and Porter went one-two in the 100-yard butterfly with times of 51.17 and 51.66 respectively -- both state qualifying time. The event was one of two that Mac had four of the eight spots in the 'A' final. The other was the 100-yard backstroke, in which Versteeg (52.80, state qualifying time) was outtouched by Liam Metzsch of Century by a tenth of a second. 

"He doesn't like to lose, but that's good for him," Hafner said. "He'll be a little disappointed he didn't win, but it'll make htim that much more motivated for state."

Binkerd took third in the 50-yard free and qualified for state with a time of 22.39, but just missed on a qualifying time in the 100-yard free (49.79), in which he placed third. Hafner called it a push, however, as he will be able to swim on all three Grizzly relays at state. 

Hayes' lifetime best in the 100-yard breaststroke of 1:01.30 was good for third place and a state berth.

"Max had a great swim," Hafner said. "We thought he had an outside chance (to qualify for state). That was a bonus."

Hafner said the boys are fourth place on paper for the state meet. The Grizzlies finished sixth last year.

"We're going to come in Friday and we're going to go hard and try to move ourselves up there," he said. "I think we're set up well for that."

Hafner said the girls are set up well for a top 12 finish. He said the relays all have a chance to get one of the top 6 championship final spots, and all the girls in individual races had a good chance for a second swim Saturday.

"They all still have a little more in them."

The preliminary rounds start at 1 p.m. Friday, and the finals begin at 12:15 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students, and can be purchased online at

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