Jared Kelson makes the final turn in the 200 free during the meet with West Salem High School Thursday, Jan. 23. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Jared Kelson makes the final turn in the 200 free during the meet with West Salem High School Thursday, Jan. 23. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The West Salem Titans dealt the McNary Celtics their first loss of the season in the pool Thursday, Jan. 23.

However, the Celtics weren’t hanging their heads.

“West is a tough team, but we didn’t give up and we showed them we’re better than they thought we were. We had some individual struggles, but we held it together and kept trying,” said Celt junior Josie Ellis.

The girls took a 98-71 loss to West. The boys narrowly missed a win, the final score with West was 87-83.

“West was really shocked and we all did a lot better than they expected we could,” said Alex Fox, a McNary senior.

The girls didn’t capture as many race wins as boys, but hung with the Titans by turning in placing efforts all evening.

“We really just put it all out there and went out and worked our butts off,” said Kiana Briones. “We’ve been working really hard and we’re all improving every meet. I think we have a good shot at district titles.”

Briones took first in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:33.16, a personal record for the Lady Celt. She pulled out a second place finish in the 100 breast and less than a second separated her and the winner, West Salem’s Allie Rasmussen. Briones was also part of the winning 400 free relay team alongside Samantha Williams, Jewel Boyd and Anjelica Glassey. The team turned in a time of 4:20.67.

The other race winner for the girls was Morgan Kuch in the 100 free with a time of 1:10.35.

One of McNary’s steadiest performers, Monica Howard, was left off the podium in her first race, the 200 IM, and took third in the 100 back, but she still managed personal records in both events.

“We had a lot of energy and team spirit in the room,” Howard said. “That’s what will make a difference as we approach districts and work on sprinting and technique.”

Ellis didn’t capture a race win, but notched personal records in the 200 IM, 100 butterfly and in her leg of the 200 medley relay. Kim Phillips, head coach of the Celtic teams, said Ellis has been setting new lifetime bests every time she steps in to the pool.

“I’m working toward getting my breast stroke under 1:20, and I’m going to be swimming the 100 fly, which is new, but I’m hoping in the teens for that one,” Ellis said.

In the boys events, Fox had one of the best meets of his career. Fox came from behind to take a win in the 200 IM in 2:10:33 and won the 100 breast in 1:06.55. The times were lifetime bests for Fox.

“In the 200 IM, the other guy I was racing (West’s) Ryan Wetzel, was beating me by a body length at the last turn and I told myself I couldn’t let that happen,” Fox said. “In the 100 breast, they’d seeded my teammate, Sloane Yerger, to beat me and that was motivation enough.”

Other winners for the boys were: Perry Groves in the 50 free in 23.36; Fox, Evan Alger, Yerger and Groves in the 200 free relay in 1:36.84; and Jared Kelson in the 200 free in 2:10.25.