REEDSPORT — When Reedsport restarted its swim program three seasons ago, three sophomores were quick to join the team.
Now those three athletes — Kassandra Diehl, Brendon Harrison and Elsa Frakes — are preparing for their final district meet this weekend in Cottage Grove, along with fellow senior Sydney Robison of Siuslaw, who swims for Reedsport as part of a cooperative agreement between the schools.
“When we decided to join, it was the friendship bonds (that drew us in),” Harrison said.
The initial spark for the team was Katarina Ziska, who graduated last spring. She had been a competitive swimmer before coming to Reedsport and wanted to make sure the high school had a team.
“Kat was a really good friend to all of us,” Frakes said. “She wanted to see it continue.”
The swimmers bought into that concept.
“We feel the responsibility to carry on,” Harrison said.
Though there aren’t many younger high schoolers who have joined, there are a few talented eighth-graders in the growing club team in town. And in addition to the seniors, Reedsport features juniors Aidan Bright and Tommy Wolford, and sophomore Hunter Kruzick, as well as a Robison and two other swimmers from Siuslaw.
It wasn’t just the bond that brought them to the team.
“I’ve loved swimming since I was little,” Diehl said.
Frakes remembered taking lessons in the same Highland Pool where she swims every day now back when she was in kindergarten.
And Harrison swam in YMCA back when he was in Pennsylvania.
For Robison, the chance to join Reedsport's team during its initial season was a dream come true.
She had been a competitive swimmer in Utah before moving to Florence as a sixth-grader and thought her competitive days were done since the only pool in town was at a fitness center, where she taught some classes.
She was at a party at the Highland Pool in Reedsport and told some of the people she was interested in becoming a lifeguard.
“They were saying, ‘Why don’t you just go out for the swim team?’” she said. “I wanted to join.
“I was literally in tears of joy when I found out there was a swim team. I’ve never been so happy.”
Reedsport coach Guy Marchione said Robison took the initiative and has continued to for three seasons, arranging rides — 25 minutes each way every day for practice along with Cienna Vergara and Brianna Tabor, two juniors who are first-year competition swimmers. Most of the year, exchange student Erika Fujita also has made the trip down from Florence.
“I’m astonished that she’s willing to do that,” Marchione said of Robison's commitment. “She’s the one who asked if she could (join the team). She’s persevered. She filled out the paperwork.”
Marchione is excited about the progress his swimmers have made this season.
“Almost every one of them (had personal bests) every meet this year,” Marchione said. “They’re really improving.
“They’ve worked really hard.”
The seniors are excited about the district meet.
“I’m excited to see how fast I can go,” Diehl said.
She will compete in the longest races, the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle, which is a testament to how much she has grown as a swimmer since first joining the squad.
“When I first saw people doing the 500, I thought I’d never do that,” she said. “Now I’m doing it every day.
“I like it. I’m not that fast and I’m not competitive. It’s like the perfect pace for me.”
Harrison has had a similar evolution, though at a shorter distance.
“I remember my first 50 time was a minute and 10 seconds,” he said. “Now I’m doing 30.”
Robison, who can swim every stroke and will participate in the breaststroke in addition to one of the freestyle races, is similarly excited.
“I feel like I’ve really improved,” she said. “The whole team has really improved.”