Ashland braces for SSC meets

The Ashland High boys and girls swimming teams will be gunning for Southern Sky Conference championships this weekend when the two-day district meet comes to Southern Oregon University.

The event, which starts with Friday's prelims and wraps up Saturday, is one of two district meets that Ashland High will participate in over the weekend. The AHS wrestling team will also compete in an SSC district meet, Saturday at Eagle Point.

The Ashland boys swim team is led by senior Dash King and sophomore Lucas Opgenorth. King is the swimmer to beat in both the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 free, while Opgenorth enters with the best time in the 100 butterfly and the second-best mark in an event he's relatively new at, the 500 free.

If King and Opgenorth combine for three individual wins or more and Ashland pulls out one of the three relays, says Ashland coach Steve Mitzel, the shorthanded Grizzlies have a chance to upset league favorite Crater.

"It's just like football or anything else &

Ashland's always small," Mitzell said, "We have to do the best we can with what we've got. We're shooting for it on both sides, so it'll be fun."

Ashland's best shot at an individual title is in the 100 free, an event King has dominated this season. King's top time of 50.21 seconds is more than seven seconds faster than his nearest competitor's, Jason Carter of Crater.

King and teammate Rafferty Swink are rated No. — and No. 2, respectively, in the 100 free, with King's time of 22.40 ranking as the top mark so far.

Opgenorth, who also represents the future of the Ashalnd High water polo program, enters as the favorite in the 100 butterfly by virtue of his 1:01.97 mark, which is nearly six seconds faster than the No. 2 time of 1:07.28 by Crater's Dylan Kennish.

— — Ashland High 145-pound wrestler Jake Scarminach lifts up teammate Issa Shahin during Wednesday's practice at Ashland High.

Winners earn automatic berths to the state meet, Feb. 15-16 at Mt. Hood Community College Aquatic Center in Gresham.

"It would be really exciting to be able to compete in an individual event up at state and go see what everybody else is doing," Opgenorth said.

On the girls side, the Grizzlies are led by senior Kristin Frazier, sophomore Livy Krevitz and senior Garrett Haberman. Frazier comes in with the top time in the 100 free (1:05.17) and the No. 2 time in the 100 breaststroke (1:24.48), and Krevitz enters with the second-best mark in the 50 free (29.37) and the fourth-best mark in the 100 free (1:08.03).

"I'm really excited just because it's my last meet in high school and I think we have a good chance at winning," Frazier. "Realistically, if all of our girls show up and we all swim our hardest, we're going to be close to Crater for first. It's really exciting."

In the SSC wrestling meet, the Grizzlies are hoping that a few strong performances by their stars plus some scrappy efforts by the rest will yield at least a third-place team finish. Crater and Eagle Point will be the favorites.

"What they've done throughout the season as far as their wrestling records, it spoke for itself (Wednesday) at the seeding meeting," Ashland coach Bill Bowers said.

In other words, Bowers likes where his wrestlers ended up in the various brackets, several of which have Grizzlies well positioned for long runs. The best bets for Ashland are heavyweight Joe Hatch, 189-pounder Julian Ewald, Josh Scarminach at 171 and his brother Jake Scarminach at 145. Ashland 160-pounder Issa Shahin is also a threat. Hatch enters as the No. 2 seed; the others are No. — seeds.

The top three placers in each weight class advance to the state meet, Feb. 14-16 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

"It's not really about points right now," said Ewald, who played a major role in bring wrestling back to Ashland last season, "it's about everybody just giving it their all. We've come a long way since last year.

"We're doing great. Everybody's putting forth a lot of effort. We're just the foundation right now and we're building up."

— — Ashland High junior Troy Robinson practices his backstroke during practice Wednesday at the SOU pool. Robinson enters the SSC district meet with the second-best time in the 200-yard individual medly.

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.

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