COOS BAY — When Marshfield swim coach Kathe McNutt went looking for senior leadership this season, it was easy to find.
The Pirates are loaded with seniors as they head into this week’s Class 4A-3A-2A-1A District 4 meet at North Bend Municipal Pool. The regular seniors count 13 in number, nearly all of whom have been swimming together for years after getting their start under McNutt on the Gold Coast Swim Team.
For Marshfield, the volume of seniors is impressive not just because of the number, but how long most of them have stuck with the sport.
Ask the swimmers, and the reason is simple.
“I’s all Kathe,” said Tanner Koster, remembering back to his earliest days on the Gold Coast team. “She gave me (candy) worms.”
“A lot of it is we’ve all been swimming together since club,” said Cassidy Carr. “She really emphasizes how important it is to be a family and be a team.
“And she doesn’t take no for an answer.”
The last thought was confirmed by Bree Billeter.
“”She always finds ways to get you to come back.”
The rest of the seniors are Anna Hutchins, Sierra Ward, Brian Place, Josh Olson, CJ McCarthy, Connor Fromm, AJ Kliewer, Gabe Delgado, Frankie Figueroa and Kaleb Hughes, the only relative newcomer among the entire group.
For perspective, last year’s senior group included two swimmers — one who was a first-year team member and one who had started her high school career in North Bend.
But the strong number doesn’t seem strange to this year’s seniors.
“I don’t think we think of ourselves as that many, because it’s just normal,” Billeter said.
And strong teams are typical of the Class of 2019 — as evidenced by the football, volleyball and basketball teams.
“It’s our class,” Olson said. “It’s a really big class. Almost all the clubs and sports are made up of seniors.”
They will be on display Friday and Saturday when Marshfield is expected to sweep the team titles because of strong team depth that none of the other 11 teams can match.
The district also includes Reedsport, Cascade Christian, Cottage Grove, Henley, Hidden Valley, Klamath Union, Lost River, Mazama, North Valley, Phoenix and St. Mary’s.
Preliminaries start at 1 p.m. Friday at North Bend, with the top 18 performers in each individual event advancing to Saturday where the top six compete in the championship heat, the next six in the consolation heat and the third six in the non-scoring bonus heat.
Finals begin at 11:20 a.m. Saturday.
Admission each day is $5 for adults and $3 for students.
All team scoring comes Saturday, when the swimmers also are competing for spots in the state meet next weekend in Beaverton. The winner of each race advances to state, as well as any swimmers who finish among the eight fastest non-winners from among the four district meets around the state this weekend.
Most of Marshfield’s seniors have been to the state meet either as individual competitors, parts of relay teams or relay alternates.
The Pirates should get a strong group to state again this year, especially with North Bend now competing in Class 5A — the two rival teams have balanced each other out in recent years.
Even though Marshfield is favored in the team races, the Pirates aren’t taking this week for granted.
“You still need to realize … there are guys out there who are going to challenge you,” Olson said. “You still have to focus on doing good.
“Just because you are seeded high, you don’t have to work any less hard.”
And, Carr added, the district meet is much more closely officiated than regular meets.
“You have to watch for sloppiness,” she said.
Marshfield isn’t favored in every race this week — not close — but the Pirates are favored in all three relays for boys and girls, which count double for points, and have three or four athletes favored to reach the championship finals in a number of events.
For the girls, Hutchins is favored in both the 200 and 500 freestyle, with teammate Kady Cooley seeded second and Billeter also in the top five along with Mira Matthews in the 200 freestyle and Paige Kirchner in the longer race.
Pauline Kaiser is seeded third in the breaststroke, Kirchner fourth in the butterfly, Carr fourth in the individual medley and Taylor Waddington fourth in the backstroke. Sydney Trendell is seeded in the top six in both her individual races.
In the boys portion of the meet, Fromm is seeded first in the 200 freestyle and the butterfly while Kliewer is the top seed in the individual medley (with his younger brother Robert second) and the No. 2 seed in the breaststroke. Place is the No. 2 seed in the butterfly, with Olson third, behind Fromm. Zach Randle is seeded second in both the 200 and 500 freestyle and Figueroa is seeded third in the 100 freestyle. Koster, Delgado, Trey Kirk and Aaron Hutchins also are seeded to make the finals in at least one event.
And while Marshfield is loaded with depth, the other highly seeded swimmers are spread out among multiple schools.
If the Pirates swim well, the seniors should be able to celebrate a pair of district titles on Saturday.
McNutt is grateful for the seniors and for the support their families have provided over the years.
She said it’s a special group and one that has been close.
“I just think they’ve really had a lot of fun and enjoyed each other,” she said. “This has been a great place for them.”
She hopes they finish their local careers with a flourish at the district meet.
“I’m just hoping for everyone to have a good meet and a fun meet,” McNutt said.