Zander Rhoades hopes to have a breakout year for the McNary boys team (File).

Although they weren’t able to send an athlete to state, both of McNary’s boys and girls swim teams finished with a 5-2 record in dual meets last season. And with the majority of kids coming back on each squad, head coach Casey Lewin believes that this could be a a big year for the Celtics program.

“We have a lot of raw talent and I think we have some kids that could have some breakout seasons,” Lewin said. 

Although the McNary boys lost some of their best swimmers in Harrison Vaughn, Jabez Rhoades and Wyatt Sherwood, the Celtics do return senior Kyle Hooper, who is expected to be one of the top swimmers in the Mountain Valley Conference. 

Hooper has finished in the top seven at districts the last two years in the 200-yard individual medley and in the 500-freestyle. He is hoping to finally reach the state meet in his final season. 

“He is definitely motivated and ready to go this year. Kyle will be a big leader for us, so we’re hoping that this will be the year for him,” Lewin said.  

Tyshin Nguyen, Zander Rhoades, Ethan Whalen and Brennan Whalen will also be returning after having some success in the pool last season. 

“Hopefully, our guys will be able to build off their success from last year and just get faster and score more points,” Lewin said. “We expect them to always be getting faster. With them, we don’t want to to get too caught up in worrying about state, but instead, just taking care of things one day at a time and working on little things that they need to work on.”

While the boys do have some higher expectations coming into this season, the Celtics girls squad arguably has the most potential. 

The McNary girls 200-medley relay team of Alex Beard, Bella Beard, Paris Boyd and Alyssa Garvey took third at districts last season, falling just short of nabbing a spot a state. 

However, the Celtics return all four swimmers to this year’s team and are hoping to secure a conference title in the 200-medley relay. 

“They are very excited to see what they are able to do. I don’t want to say that’s their main focus because they also have all of their individual events that they can also do really well in, but that relay brings them all together,” Lewin said. “The relays are also just fun and I think their success in that is a huge motivator.”

While the Beard sisters, along with Boyd and Garvey had their most success in the relay, each swimmer also had some significant individual accomplishments last season as well.

Alex Beard was the only girls swimmer for McNary to earn a pair of top-eight finishes at the district meet, as she placed sixth in both the 200-IM and the 500-free at districts last year. Bella Beard had the highest individual placing out of all Celtic swimmers at the last district meet with her fifth-place finish in the 100-breaststroke. 

Boyd, on the other hand, took seventh in the 50-free at districts. 

“Our girls are excited and hungry for this season. I think all the confidence they have gained from last year is going to carry over,” Lewin said. 

Overall, the Celtics might not be able to hang with some of the mountain schools like Bend and Summit — who traditionally have strong programs. But Lewin believes that both McNary teams have what it takes to be the best in the salem-Keizer area. 

“With out success in duals over the past couple of years, we have started to show that we have some good top-end talent,” Lewin said. 

At the end of the day, however, what Lewin really cares about is seeing gradual improvement from each of his swimmers throughout the season. 

“It’s just about taking care of yourself every day. There are a lot of fast swimmers in the league. There are a lot of fast swimmers in the state. But all you can control is you,” Lewin said. “I know it sounds super basic and simple, but if you can take care of yourself everyday and do what you need to do to get better, good things will happen. Kids have really bought into that. They know every day is a step towards that goal.”