Monica Howard practices her breaststroke in the Kroc Center pool. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Monica Howard practices her breaststroke in the Kroc Center pool. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Tightened budgets have led to the cut of transportation for the McNary High School swimming teams, but swimmers and coaches alike are focusing on the silver linings.

“The carpooling is creating friendships that we probably wouldn’t have had,” said Samantha Williams, a McNary sophomore returning for her second year on the team.

Since swimming was cut from the offerings of Salem-Keizer high schools two years ago, the program has been sustained through private sponsors and donors.

For Kim Phillips, McNary head coach, the lack of transportation helps impart lessons about responsibility.

“They’re solely responsible for finding a way to get here. It’s meant that the kids we have swimming are the ones who really want to be here. They found a way, and the work ethic has been great,” she said.

McNary will have one of its smallest rosters in recent years, but a revitalized attitude, said senior Morgan Kuch.

“I almost feel like the attitude is a lot better than last year,” Kuch said. “Everyone seems ready to deal with what we have and make the best of it.”

Kuch is hoping get her times in the 100 breaststroke down to the performance levels (1:21) she had as a sophomore. Williams wants better times in the individual medley and 500 free.

The only returning athletes with state experience this year are seniors Alex Fox and Perry Groves. Both were part of a winning 200 free relay team last season. Groves made it to state races in the 50 free.

“We have a ton of freshmen boys and that’s exciting. We want to see them come along pretty quickly because if they do well in junior varsity races, it will get us varsity points,” Fox said.

Fox is looking forward to the challenge of being a positive influence on the younger swimmers, but he’s got goals of his own as well.

“I’m really looking forward to swimming in the breaststroke. My teammate Sloane Yerger is one of my good friends, and we have the exact same times. We’re going to be pushing each other,” Fox said.

Groves wants another spot in the 50 free at the state races in February.

“I  want to get in under 22-flat. My best last year was around 22.38,” he said. “We haven’t done much work in the relays yet, but we’ve got some guys with experience coming back.”

The Celts got their first taste of competition in the district at a preview meet Thursday, Dec. 5, past press time. They will face South Salem in a dual meet Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Kroc Center. Races begin at 7 p.m.

“South has some really good freshmen this year and I’m anxious to see what we can do against them,” Fox said.

In the meantime, Phillips planned to focus on stroke and turn drills.

“All the fundamentals,” she said. “It’s always hard to get them in shape as quickly as I would like.”

The Salem-Keizer Swim Boosters welcome donations through its website, For $150, donors can adopt a swimmer for the upcoming season, which includes letters from the adopted athlete about their progress through the season. For more information on swimmer adoption, send an e-mail to or call 503-399-7999.