By Jeremy McDonald
ALBANY, Ore.– There’s always been a special bond between three of the four legs of the Salem Academy Boys relay team.
The three seniors: Wilson McLean, Matt Nettland and Wyatt Chaffey all came into the program together as freshman in what seemed like a few short years ago. Come Saturday, they raced their last District Meet together.
Chaffey, built like between a 182 to 220 pound wrestler instead of that stereotypical ‘swimmer’ body of being slender, started swimming his freshman year at the advice of his doctor after a leg injury as a form of rehab.
He never had a swim lesson prior to his freshman season and it took about mid-season before he was even cleared to jump off the board into the pool, but by his senior season, he was going to State in the Crusaders relay teams and the 100 backstroke.
“It’ so amazing, I never thought it was going to happen really. My coaches, my parents, they all are supporting me,” said Chaffey. “All of their support really got me through all of that. Freshman year I couldn’t really dive in until about halfway through the year, the doctor said it as a precaution and then coming all the way through.
“Matt Boles still helps me out sometimes at practices and stuff like that and my coaches man they push me with great work ethic through the years. That’s what really helped me I think.”
McLean, who’s also known for his talents on the track as The Flash almost like for the Salem Academy Track and Field squad, was brought to tears after the last relay when he got under 50 seconds with his leg with a 49 second portion of the relay.
For the senior, it hit home hard for him as he was preparing to join every senior in that pool area for the ‘Seniors Last Swim’-sendoff.
“It was just a sudden realization…a culmination of all my hard work and effort into all these past four years,” starts McLean. “The hard practices, the fun practices I mean all of it. I’m at a loss for words, you never really…you watched for three years all these seniors have their moment and coming down to the end of the line you think, ‘that time will never come’.
“And then it hits you, this is it for me. Other than State, that’s my last District event. This is my last time I’ll swing at South Albany. I mean I grew up since freshman year and it’s surreal to realize that I’m not coming back here anymore, this is my last swim meet. We got one more left, but it’s all too surreal.”
The sibling rivalry with Sweet Home, finally partaking in the Seniors Last Swim after watching it for years, it’s been worth it as the Boys finish second in Districts behind the Huskies.
“As a guys unit I couldn’t ask for anymore, I mean we gave it all we could and I’m so proud of each and every single one of our guys team,” said McLean. “Sweet Home did a good job and we did an amazing job as well, I can’t say anything more than how proud I am of the boys.”
The girls side too finished in second-place for the third-year in a row, and for a senior like Molly Gallagher, it means a lot to them.
“I think that we always could beat Sweet Home, but our goal was to always get second and just to have that mentality is just beyond belief. I’m very ecstatic,” said Gallagher. “I think all of us PR’d in at least in one event and I feel like our moral is just through the roof, yeah we killed it today.”
Trinity Pierce was one of the girls who set the pace for the Lady Crusaders swimmers as the junior won two District Titles Saturday afternoon at the Albany Community Pool that’s right next to South Albany High School.
“It is amazing,” laughed Pierce about the feat.
In one of the two Titles she received, in the 100 butterfly, Pierce had to outlast Cascade’s Min Wei’s to claim the first title of two as the Junior squeaks by the senior for the win.
“It’s really amazing, I’ve had some really tough turns but I knew Min was pushing me and I’m so proud of her. I needed her to be there,” said Pierce of Wei. “I just know how hard she works so it made me work so much harder and we’ll see each other at State. I’m ready.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald