By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary’s swim team keeps growing.
After being late to the first week of practice for taking two trips from the high school to the Kroc Center, Celtics head coach Casey Lewin had to go to McNary athletic director Scott Gragg and get a bigger bus.
“It’s a good problem to have,” said Lewin, who enters his fourth year as head coach. “I started out with about 35 my first year and each year add on some. It’s good. I’m excited.”
McNary will enter the season with at least 60 swimmers, including 20 freshmen, which is twice as many as the Celtics normally have.
“I would love to be at 70,” Lewin said. “That would be awesome. My goal was like 55 this year and we’ve already gone past that so I’m pleased.”
Lewin was also impressed by the focus he’s seen from the team since practice began on Monday, Nov. 13.
“We were a super focused group last year and that carried over,” Lewin said. “Our first practice on Monday was probably the best first practice I’ve had and this will be my eighth year of high school coaching. Everybody was on top of it, listening well, focusing hard. It’s a very coachable group, which makes our job super easy.”
Two of McNary’s top girl swimmers are already out for the entire season.
Senior Marissa Kuch, the 2016 Female Greater Valley Conference Swimmer of the Year as a sophomore, is still dealing with the same back pain that caused her to miss the end of her junior campaign.
Senior Sarah Eckert, who led the Celtics at the GVC Championships last season, finishing fifth in the 500-yard freestyle and eighth in the 100 butterfly, tore her ACL.
Returning for the Lady Celts is senior Haley Debban, a three-sport (volleyball, swimming, track) athlete at McNary who placed eighth in the 100 breaststroke at the district meet last season.
Emily Alger and Alyssa Garvey, who along with Debban and Eckert, finished fourth in the GVC in the 200 free relay, are also back.
Lizzie Bryant, Emma Garland and Kylie McCarty, who swam on the sixth place 400 free relay team with Alger, return as well. Bryant also tied for seventh in the 100 backstroke last season.
Lewin also expects twins Bella and Alex Beard, who are both strong club swimmers, to make a splash as freshmen.
Senior Grant Biondi leads a McNary’s boys team that should be much improved.
“It’s great watching my team throughout the years grow,” Biondi said.
“I think we can really set the standard high this year by pushing hard and continuing to practice really hard.”
Sophomore Kyle Hooper, who finished sixth in the GVC in the 500 free as a freshman, returns. Brock Wyer and Harrison Vaughn, who swam on the fifth place 200 medley relay with Biondi are also back, as are Jabez Rhoades and Wyatt Sherwood, who were on the sixth place 200 free relay team. Sherwood, Vaughn and Hooper also swam on the 400 free relay squad that took seventh.
“The boys will be much stronger than last year,” Lewin said. “We have a handful who hadn’t swam club before but after last season, they started to swim club. They saw what it takes to get to that next level where they want to be. We’ll have a lot more depth than in the past.”
McNary opens the season on Thursday, Nov. 30 at 3:30 p.m. in the Kroc Center against Forest Grove.
“I’m just excited to see how we’re going to swim in the first meet,” Lewin said. “I’m just really excited to see where we’re at.”