It was a busy week for the Cottage Grove swim teams, but with a fine new facility and their biggest team in years, that’s just how they like it.
The Lions swam twice last week, first hosting a dual meet with Salem Academy on Tues., Dec. 17 before getting in the pool again on Fri., Dec. 20 for a five-team event including Churchill, Henley, St. Mary’s and North Valley.
The depth of the Cottage Grove team overwhelmed Salem Academy in the dual meet, with the Lions winning the overall points battle 371-228 and the Lions’ 189 total points in Friday’s meet were second only to Churchill - the lone 5A school — who finished with 292. It’s a promising continuation to the 2019-20 season for a team with its eyes set on February.
“It’s going great,” said head coach Tyson Pilling of the ongoing season. “Still a lot to work on, but as we keep going up in the season, we’ll just keep adding work, then we’ll have our taper, then we’ll be ready for that district and state meet.”
A little bit of strategy has already come into play early in the season in preparation for next year’s season-ending meets. At Friday’s contest, Pilling was particularly aware of how the typical race schedule lined up with his team’s strengths.
“Relays are really, really important,” he said. “You have to be aware when you have good individual swimmers, if their event is after the relays or vice versa, you kinda have to play it to what’s going to be the best for the team.”
Ultimately, though the sport is largely made up of individual events, the Lions preach a team culture that emphasizes the team events and totals.
“When it comes down to those relays, it makes a really big difference points-wise,” Pilling said. And it paid off on Friday as Cottage Grove stood well above their district counterparts — Henley, St. Mary’s and North Valley — on the scoreboard.
Against Salem Academy, many swimmers were tasked with swimming events they weren’t accustomed to in an effort to further parse out the best lineups moving forward. Having a glut of options is certainly nothing a coach would complain about.
“Having a lot of new swimmers come in, it’s definitely giving our team a lot of depth,” Pilling said discussing the road to the district meet.
Despite the lineup changes, the Lions earned 16 event wins against the Crusaders. The boys won the 200 medley relay (2:06.10, Ayden Kimery, Fisher Nash, James Kelly, Iverson Bascue) along with the 200 freestyle (2:04.86, Kelly), 200 individual medley (2:40.48, Max McCasline), 100 backstroke (1:16.20, Bascue) and 100 breaststroke (1:15.43, Nash).
The girls swept the three relay events and got eight more individual event wins in the 500 freestyle (6:21.09, Kalee Walter), 100 backstroke (1:13.11, Nadia Witt), 100 breaststroke (1:26.94, Peyton Baird), 200 freestyle (2:41.28, Evie Smith), 200 individual medley (2:38.80, MJ Raade), 50 freestyle (27.35, Mikayla Baird), 100 freestyle (1:01.73, M. Baird) and 100 butterfly (1:20.77, P. Baird.)
Friday’s meet was also an early test for the Warren H. Daugherty Aquatic Center and its capacity as host of February’s district meet. There were five teams present and the bleachers were nearly full. Districts will bring 12 teams and their friends and family to Cottage Grove.
For someone less experienced with CG swimming and less connected to the facility and the swim community, it might be cause for concern. But not for Pilling.
“One thing that’s really helpful is that we have so much support,” Pilling said. “Teams that really supported us from when we had our old facility to our new facility are Marshfield and North Eugene. North Eugene helped us out a ton with pool time during our water polo season when we didn’t have a home. Also, they run 5A districts so they’re helping us [logistically] run 4A. Then, Marshfield ran 4A districts last year, so their people came down to help.”
It’s fair to say the Daugherty Center will be prepared when the time comes, but CG swim fans should be advised that arriving early for parking isn’t the worst idea for the Feb. 14-15 event. For the time being, things are going just about as well as they could.
“As they were leaving, some of the coaches were saying how great it was and how much fun districts will be,” Pilling said. “Some of those teams haven’t been in the Cottage Grove pool for more than ten years.”
Competitive swimming is well and truly back in the Grove.