By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
SALEM—As McNary junior Sarah Eckert swam the final laps of the 500-yard freestyle, closing in on the leader, she wasn’t thinking about her runner-up finish in the 100 butterfly just 10 minutes earlier.
“I feel like it makes swimming harder when you think about the races that you’ve already swam so I just like to clear my mind,” Eckert said. “ I’m a really competitive person so when I saw her ahead of me, it was the last 100, I knew I could do it, I just started kicking like crazy and letting my body take over.”
Eckert had just enough left to edge South Salem sophomore Maya Merrill by less than half a second, 5:50.15 to 5:50.52 in the longest race of the night.
“Sometimes I think are bodies are more capable than what we think of so I just like to let my mind go blank and just let my body swim,” Eckert said. “I know Maya is a really, really good swimmer so I did expect it to be pretty close.”
Eckert’s victory in the 500 wasn’t enough for the Lady Celts to defeat South Salem, who outscored the McNary girls 107-62 at the KROC Center on Thursday, Jan. 12.
Along with placing second in the 100 fly in 1:07.73, Eckert also swam on two relays. The 200 medley with Lizzie Bryant, Haley Debban and Marissa Kuch finished second in 2:05.01. Swimming anchor in the 400 free relay, Eckert, Kylie McCarty, Emily Alger and Hannah Corpe also took second in 4:10.67.
Kuch also had a strong meet individually, winning the 50 free in 25.50 and the 100 free in 56.19.
South Salem outscored the McNary boys as well, 113-56, but the 500 free was neck and neck with McNary sophomore Harrison Vaughn leading from the start and able to hold off South Salem freshman Alistair Heringer to win the event in 5:23.44.
“When it got to the last 200, I picked it up,” Vaughn said. “I had enough at the end and I just think he (Heringer) died.”
Vaughn and Eckert are both undefeated in the 500 free this season.
“They compete well,” McNary head coach Casey Lewin said. “They don’t like to lose. Being pushed brings the best out of them.”
The meet wrapped up a busy two weeks for McNary that included four meets over 10 days.
“We had a lot of best times and considering we’re at the end of that run, where we’re at is a pretty good place,” Lewin said. “I was really proud of how we swam.”
The Celtics got a much deserved bye next week and dive back into the pool at West Albany on Friday, Jan. 27 at 4 p.m.