North Bend Swimming Vs. St. Mary's

North Bend's Natalie Cheal competes Thursday in the 200-yard individual medley during a meet against St. Mary's in North Bend. Cheal won the race for the Bulldogs. 

NORTH BEND — North Bend’s first district meet in the Class 5A for Midwestern League in swimming is Friday and Saturday in Eugene, and if the Bulldogs swim well they could be bringing both championship trophies back to the Bay Area.

“I think we’ll do solid,” said North Bend sophomore Bella Jones, one of the team leaders.

The goals this week are both to win the district title and qualify as many swimmers as possible for next weekend’s state meet in Beaverton.

First-year North Bend head coach Bruce Rasmussen thinks the team is set up to do well after he and several helpers tried to position the swimmers in the events where they and the team can be most successful.

“We massaged and re-massaged and looked at that thing,” he said. “We’ve got a good team. They’re a good group of young people.

“They’re going to do things that they are going to be proud of for a long time.”

Each swimmer can compete in two individual events and up to two relays. With North Bend’s depth and its high-end talent, the Bulldogs should fare well against the other seven teams — Eagle Point does not have a swim program.

Based on the district entry times, North Bend’s boys are projected to win by a comfortable margin, with Churchill a distant second.

The girls team race should be much closer between North Bend and Springfield, which also has a lineup filled with firepower.

The winner of each event this week advances to the state meet, as well as the eight fastest performers in each event who aren’t champions at one of the four districts.

That should be a good number of Bulldogs, with the girls favored in five of the eight individual races and two of the relays and the boys favored in three races and two relays.

“I feel we will do pretty good,” said junior Craig Hoefs. “I’m excited.”

The meet starts at 9:45 a.m. Friday at Willamalane Pool in Eugene with preliminaries in all the individual events.

All the team scoring and state qualifying comes Saturday, when the action begins at 9:15 a.m.

Admission each day is $6 for adults, $4 for students and $1 for children ages 13 and under.

The top 16 swimmers in each event Friday advance to Saturday’s finals, with the top eight in the championship heat and the next eight in the consolation heat. All relay finals are Saturday and those events count double for the team scores, making them extra important.

North Bend’s swimmers are excited not just because of their team depth, but also the general feel of the team.

“This year, we’ve gotten so much closer bonding wise,” Jones said.

That carries over to the pool with positive energy, said Hoefs.

“When everybody cheers everybody on, you get that same energy,” he said.

“When you see us at any meet, you will hear us,” added Jones.

The swimmers should have a lot to cheer about.

For the boys, Kenneth Shepherd is the top seed in both the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle and Zachary Holt is the top seed in the 200-yard individual medley.

In addition, Gavin Tatge is seeded second in the individual medley and third in the backstroke, Hoefs is seeded second in the breaststroke with Holt third, and Adam Wood (200 freestyle), Mavrick Macalino (50 freestyle and 100 freestyle), Tucker Hood (butterfly) and Logan Lampe (backstroke) all are seeded fourth.

North Bend also is the top seed for both freestyle relays.

The girls have similar firepower at the top.

Jones is seeded first in the 200 freestyle and second to teammate Natalie Cheal in the butterfly, Cheal also is the top seed in the individual medley, Makenna Roberts is seeded first in the 500 freestyle and Annika Strasman is the top seed in the backstroke. Roberts is seeded second in the breaststroke.

Helen Witharm is seeded third in the 100 freestyle and Strasman is the No. 3 seed in the 50 freestyle.

North Bend also has the top time in both the medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.

Springfield can challenge the Bulldogs with its own strong relays — the Millers are seeded first in the 200 freestyle relay and second in the other two — and with individual favorites Olivia Green (50 freestyle and 100 freestyle) and McKenzie Galloway (breaststroke).

The strength of North Bend is in depth that projects to a total of 29 top-16 individual finishes for the boys and 24 for the girls — both better than any other team.

A lot of those are swimmers who are relatively new to the sport either as exchange students or newcomers.

“You see the JV people — they have improved so much,” Jones said.

In a tight team race, those swimmers who place in the consolation heat can make all the difference in the final standings.

Rasmussen expects big things for his swimmers, especially after they taper this week and feast on a carbohydrate-loaded spaghetti dinner provided by the school’s culinary program on Wednesday night.

“They are well-conditioned athletes,” he said. “They should just be ready to break records and (have personal bests) on Friday (and Saturday).”

And ideally when the Oregon School Activities Association announces the state qualifiers on Saturday, North Bend will have a large number.

“We know we are going to take a good cadre of strong swimmers to state and compete very well,” Rasmussen said.

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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.