By Jeremy McDonald
ALBANY, Ore.–Entering this season, no one expected Salem Academy to live up to last year’s strong performances with the graduation of such strong swimmers.
But they did.
Come mid-afternoon Saturday at Albany Community Pool however, things seemed like they were very similar to last year.
Ten who finished third, nine who finished second to start.
They broke two school records:
The 200 Freestyle relay by nearly a full second and Wilson McLean breaking the 50-yard freestyle.
To complete this equation before we get the result there were two District Champions in Caleb Warde (200-yard freestyle) and Davis McHugh (100-yard backstroke).
“It was really good,” said Warde on winning the race. “Espcially I dropped two seconds in it so I was pretty pumped about that.”
“It was really awesome,” said McHugh on his big win.”I just, put in the hard work and it’s just really nice and it was awesome. Amazing. Awesome.”
The result: Finishing second in both boys and girls in districts. The only team in front of them was the powerhouse in Sweet Home who won Districts on both sides Saturday.
“We lost a lot of really fast people last year and so a lor of people think, the talk around, was that we weren’t going to perform like we did last year,” said Head Coach Maria Robertson.”And even though we may not win, we performed better than anyone expected, including I think the team itself.
“We blew everyone out of the water, really, really proud of them. They work really hard and they just wanted to prove that they can still do well.”
You saw that hard work in the 400-yard relay when McLean and McHugh gave the Crusaders roughly a swimmers length lead when Joel Westby took over in the third-leg.
But, about a second later, the Huskies Brandon Vasfaret jumped in after Westby and quickly caught up and got ahead of Westby who tried his best to keep up with the strong performance Vasfaret was giving.
The lead Vasfaret was just enough for the anchor-leg of the relay as Sweet Home held off Salem Academy for the District Title by nearly three seconds.
“We knew it was going to be close, their first swimmer wasn’t the strongest,” said McLean. “So my number one goal was to put the biggest lead on him as possible, and then our two middle people, Joel and Davis tried to get it done, I know they swam their hardest and I’m not disappointed in them at all.
“And then my boy Kaleb at the end, cleaned it up for us. We might’ve not won that relay but I’m so proud of them and I’m super proud of how my team did this year.”
It’s who they are, they put in all the hard work and sacrifice at 5 in the morning. Two-a-days during winter break, everyone wanted to get to this point Saturday afternoon…and when it came to pay-day, that check they cashed was a good one.
“It was really amazing,” said McHugh. “Everyone was putting in hard work and we showed up and it was really hard when you want to sleep in when you have to wake up really early in the morning to go to practice…everyone wanted to work their butts off and just work really hard to get that second place. It’s really good.”
For McHugh, Warde it’s guarenteed that’ll see their names called at State next Saturday as they wait to see who picks up bids for the Big Show during the week ahead.
In the meantime however, McHugh and the seniors of the Crusaders enjoyed one last swim before they left the pool Saturday.
“It’s the best thing ever,” said McHugh. “It’s just an amazing experience to be apart of the swim team and to end it off with that it’s really fun.”
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald