By Jeremy McDonald
ALBANY, Ore.– They get up at 4, 4:15 every morning to go to practice while most of their classmates are still asleep, all in order to get better and continue a ever-strengthening winning tradition of Salem Academy swimming with a few weeks left in this year’s campaign.
“As a team I think we’re doing pretty good, we wake up at 4, 4:15 every morning to go to practice,” said Wilson McLean. “Swim at 5:30 in the morning, it gets tough, we’re coming to the end of the season where we’re all really tired. So we’re all trying to make last minute goal times to get ready for districts before tapper starts.”
To wake up that early in the morning, McLain and Sarah Kenyon describes it as a certain kind of a grind as some schools like a Philomath, have their own ‘home’ pools to practice whenever they want.
“You got to love the sport, I mean the team atomsphere, it get’s me up in the morning,”said McLean. “I mean it’s something where you got to love the sport. I love being around all these guys and without them it would be really hard. It’ll be a lot harder to do.”
“Oh it’s really hard,” laughed Kenyon on how hard it is to get up that early to practice.
You saw this team bonding, this friendship Wednesday evening was it was another night in which the Crusaders used an opportunity to get better and prepare for the 4A/3A/2A/1A District Championships on February 10 and 11 as they and Philomath took to the Albany Community Pool.
To get better as a team time wise in the water and to support one another from outside the water.
“I thought a lot of us did really well,” said Kenyon. “There were a couple of people who were sick and not feeling well but they pushed through it and they were really good today.”
As they prepare to enter the home stretch as they have two more league meets on January 28 and January 30, you could already sense the excitement and the nerves of what is to come against their District.
“We really want to go after Sweet Home because they’re a huge contender this year, so we want to see if we can contend to that District Championship if for all possible for guys and we really want to score as much as points as possible for our team,” said McLean.
McLean and teammate Caleb Warde were two of the few returning State swimmers from last years squad as they look to continue that trend this season, especially when it comes to the relay teams.
“Our relays has always been really strong and I just feel like we just keep bringing in these tough swimmers,” starts McLean. “And it’s really nice because they see the team atomsphere that we have and they see, ‘Wow, I really like what I see there’ and it really brings a lot of people on board and it keeps a lot of people swimming fast and harder.”
On the girls side, Kenyon said that there’s nerves there considering that they have big shoes to fill this year with the recent swimmers who graduated like Kiera Supple and Emma Boles.
“I am a lot more nervous this year than last because last year we had a lot of really good senior girls on our team and this year we lost them, we only have two now,”she said. “So it’s a little more nervous knowing that we don’t have that many experienced people. But a lot of us really want to make it to State.”
And why not right? Considering that the 200 Yard Girls Medley team were a few seconds away from first place in the State Event in 2016 as some of those girl seniors competed extremely well in other events as well at State. Why not join those ranks?
Those seniors left an important message for those behind like Kenyon: Team Chemistry.
“They taught us a lot of team stuff like how to be stronger as a team especially the relays,” said Kenyon.”They were really good at encouraging everyone and they kind of passed that on.”
As they exited the pool to head back up to Salem for the night to rest up for another early practice Thursday morning, the Boys and Girls Swimmers of Salem Academy know they’ll need to push themselves to compete with the likes of Blanchet, Philomath and Sweet Home to name a few come District time.
“I think we just got to keep hustling at practices, grinding and got to keep pushing. Our Coach, Coach Miss Robertson has been pushing us really hard this season and to keep responding, keep swimming fast and I think our taper is going to pay off and we’re going to have a good time at Districts,” said McLean.
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Extra Photos By Jeremy McDonald