Lady Celt Laura Donaldson cruises through the Kroc Center pool during practices Tuesday, Nov. 28. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Last year, the McNary High School boys varsity swimming team pulled off a remarkable feat. The team captured the Central Valley Conference title winning only two events.

This year, the girls want their time in the spotlight.

“It would be pretty cool if we could do that this year,” said Laura Donaldson, a McNary senior. “We have a pretty strong girls team, we have a lot of incoming freshmen who are backstrokers and breaststrokers. I think we’ll have a pretty good all around team this year.”

“We have a good variety,” added Rachel Hittner. “We have a lot of hope for our relay teams in the district competition.”

In addition to Hittner and Donaldson, two of the teams stalwarts, Lady Celts Jade Boyd and Morgan Kuch are also returning to the ranks. Donaldson, Boyd, and Hittner were part of a 200 free relay team that went to state last season.

On the personal level, Donaldson wants to improve her times and avoid the illness that sidetracked her near the end of her junior season. “I want to get :55 in the the 100 free and I want to get low :25 or high :24 in the 50 free,” she said.

Hittner wants to improve her times in the 200 and 100 individual freestyle races.

“I want to get a 2:03 or 2:04 in the 200 free and also place in the 100 at districts,” she said.

Given that there were questions as to whether the swimming programs would survive budget cuts in the Mid-Valley, even getting into the pool to practice for another season is a major win for all involved.

“We had a group of parents raise $84,000 for the CVC swimming programs,” said Kim Phillips, McNary head coach.

The Salem Keizer Swim Boosters are still accepting donations at their website, The funds primarily cover the cost of pool usage at the Kroc Center in Salem, but each team received $1,000 in discretionary income. Phillips plans to use that money to help McNary athletes purchase swimsuits.

On the boys’ side, Celts Kevin and Perry Groves were hoping the team would find ways to improve individual performances because the team lacks the depth it had last year.

“We’re still trying to figure out the goals, figuring out where the holes are in our line-up and where we need swimmers,” Kevin said. “We still have good swimmers, but we have a lot fewer people, so we’re going to have to win more races.”

Phillips said the team will be helped along with good performances from sophomore Seth Miller and Alex Fox. Miller was a standout as a freshman and she said Fox has grown by leaps and bounds.

“[Alex] swims the individual medley and the breaststroke, but he might be swimming some more freestyle,” she said.

Perry hoped to find the right combination for a successful 200 free relay team and make a return appearance in state competition.

“I also want to get to get in the low :23 in the 50 freestyle and get second in districts behind him,” Perry said, gesturing to his older brother.

Kevin had his sights set on district championships in the 100 and 50 freestyle races.

The teams’ first meet is slated for Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Kroc Center. The starting bell sounds at 3 p.m.

Until then, the gameplan was steady improvement, Perry said, “We need to be trying hard every day, working to get better and keeping our goals in mind so we don’t give up.”