AJ Kliewer

Marshfield's AJ Kliewer signs his letter of intent to swim for Southwestern Oregon Community College as his parents Jenni and Elmore look on Tuesday at Heritage Hall on the Marshfield campus.

COOS BAY — Marshfield’s AJ Kliewer capped his swimming career with a sensational state meet that included a pair of runner-up individual finishes and two more in relays as the Pirates had their best finish in school history, taking second as a team.

Kliewer hopes for similar success in college, and will stay local for his first two years after signing a letter of intent Tuesday to swim for Southwestern Oregon Community College.

“It just kind of made the most sense,” said Kliewer, who hopes to eventually swim for either College of Idaho or Willamette University.

This way, the first two years of his college will be free as he adjusts to the collegiate level and takes advantage of the facilities and training techniques used by the Lakers.

“I haven’t done specifically swimming weight training before,” he said. “That’s something they do.”

He also is joining a program that is getting better every year. The Lakers just finished third for the men and fourth for the women at the NJCAA championships in Buffalo, N.Y.

“It’s doing very well,” Kliewer said of SWOCC’s program.

He has been an individual medley and breaststroke specialist at Marshfield and is looking forward to the expanded offerings in those two events for college swimming, including the 200-yard breaststroke and the 400-yard individual medley.

Marshfield coach Kathe McNutt said she is excited for Kliewer, who joins Marshfield teammate Anna Hutchins, who signed with the Lakers last week.

“It will give him an opportunity to focus more on his swimming,” she said. “He will have a chance to get a lot stronger.

“They offer a lot more components to swimming than I can offer.”

McNutt said Kliewer has been a great leader for Marshfield, both in swimming and in the school. He has been a key member of the Pirates’ band as a trumpet player.

“He’s been wonderful,” she said. “You can always count on him. He’s so level-headed.

“He’s real good with the younger kids at the pool.”

Kliewer’s dad, Elmer, said it’s been a joy watching Kliewer grow up and develop as a swimmer.

“I remember how excited he was when he got to his first state meet (in club swimming),” Elmer Kliewer said. “We had an awesome weekend together and a lot of fun from there on out.”

Kliewer looks forward to his next chapter in swimming, competing for SWOCC coach Sandra Bullock.

“Sandra was talking about trying to get some local kids in,” he said. “I like the team-building stuff she’s doing. That’s a nice thing.”

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Sports Editor John Gunther can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 241, or by email at john.gunther@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jguntherworld.