When Katarina Ziska arrived in Reedsport from southern California before her freshman year, she was disappointed to find the school didn’t have a swim team.
After all, the now junior had grown up watching her older sisters both swim and play water polo and followed them into both sports.
Ziska started trying to rally support for a swim team and found the school had a ready-made coach on site: shop teacher Guy Marchione.
Marchione started competitive swimming when he was 5, competed for North Bend High School, where he graduated in 1976, and went on to coach in a variety of capacities, including in the Air Force and with a local masters group.
“This is my passion,” he said. “They came and asked me and I said I would do it.”
Last week, Reedsport had its first official swim practice in more than a decade, with 18 athletes joining the new team.
“I think it’s amazing that everybody who is here wants to be here,” Ziska said after one practice last week. “They are improving every day.”
She said it’s a dream come true.
“I love having a team,” Ziska said. “I know we just started, but it feels like we are a family.”
It’s not an experienced group. Only a few of them have swam competitively, with Ziska and Tori Baker the only ones recently, and for most there is a steep learning curve.
“We can only go up from here,” Marchione said.
A big part of the learning is understanding the different strokes, especially the butterfly and breaststroke, but also the backstroke and freestyle.
“They have no clue,” Marchione said, describing most of the athletes’ understanding of the butterfly. “Even the freestyle competition (stroke) is totally different from freestyle swimming in the lake.”
For some of the swimmers just to do a length to the end of the pool and back — the shortest of any high school races at 50 yards — is a challenge.
But Ziska doesn’t expect that to be a problem for long.
“Everybody is already improving since the first day they started,” she said.
Marchione is trying to put together a schedule for the team. He expects to be able to compete in a couple of Marshfield’s home swim meets and also in Cottage Grove and even hopes to have a home meet for the Brave.
Reedsport will compete in the same Class 4A-3A-2A-1A district that includes Marshfield and North Bend, with the district meet Feb. 9-10 in North Bend.
Reedsport has a proud swimming history, though the team was disbanded a little over a decade ago.
That followed a strong group of individuals, including the school’s last state champion in the sport, Aubrey Vaughn, who won the 100 freestyle in 2005 and both the 100 and 50 freestyle in 2003, finishing just in front of her sister, Emily in the shorter race. Reedsport’s girls were seventh as a team that year.
Nathan Baumgartner finished second in the 50 and 100 freestyle the same year for Reedsport’s boys.
Reedsport’s most recent boys state champion was Brian Abel, who won the 50 freestyle in 1995 and holds most of the boys school records. Back in the early 1990s, Reedsport had one of the state’s better programs.
Reedsport won back-to-back state titles in 1962 and 1963. The second of those years, Reedsport won both relays and finished 23 points ahead of runner-up Wilson. Reedsport also was second in 1964.