Before Alicia Phan was even a high school student, it might have been hard for her to imagine that years later, she would help to continue a streak of the West Salem girls swim team winning the Central Valley Conference district meet.
“I remember when I was an eighth-grader and the team came from behind to win it and it was really exciting,” she said. “Since then, we’ve won it every year, but it’s been four years of, “How long can we keep this going?’ It’s just kind of fun and we’re always trying to go for another year.”
As the two-day district meet kicked off Friday at the Kroc Center, West Salem is clearly the favorite — and marked — team. Still, going for that fifth-consecutive district title today seems to play a role in motivating the Titans.
“I think it’s pretty important for the kids,” said West Salem coach Dan Evans. “It’s something they’re always striving for. We have seniors who have done it three years in a row and they’re hoping to make it four. In the whole scheme of things, it just shows how long and good the tradition is. We’ve had lots of good swimmers of all ages and abilities.”
Phan, who helped the school’s 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay teams to preliminary victories and also took second in the 100 backstroke (1:05.92) and 100 butterfly (1:05.00), said the team is powered by its depth and youth. Freshman Brooke Chuhlantseff, sophomore Madison Blisset and sophomore Gabrielle Haugen have played integral roles on the team this season, she said.
“They’re making up so much, especially for all the upperclassmen we lost last year… I think at districts, we’ll be fine and we’re such a young team with so much room to grow,” Phan said.
One area the Titans dominated Friday was in the 100 butterfly. West Salem swept the top four spots, led by Allie Rasmussen (1:03.58), Phan (1:05.00), Miranda Davis (1:06.87) and Haugen (1:07.33). In the same event the past three years at the district meet, West Salem has swept the top four spots and the Titans will look to make it four straight years today.
On the boys’ side, the highlight of the night came via South Salem junior Carter Garfield, who broke the district meet record when he swam his way to a 1:00.84 in the 100 breaststroke. The previous record was 1:02.15, set by Jeff Sloss in 2009.
Garfield had previously set his personal best of 1:01.78 on his club team this season. On South Salem’s team this season, his best time was 1:02.02. Garfield’s goals for this weekend’s meet and next weekend’s state meet are clearly on his mind.
“My goal for today was just to stay first,” he said Friday. “My goal for tomorrow is to break the school record, which is 1:00.78. Next week, my goal is to break a minute and go 59… I had no idea what I was going to do today. I was just going fast to see what would happen.”
McNary’s Perry Groves also stood out. As a junior last season, Groves finished eighth at the state meet in the 50 freestyle (22.62), but finished with a personal best 22.14 in Friday’s preliminaries. He also knocked nearly two seconds off his previous personal best in the 100 freestyle, winning in 50.24.