Ashland has solid opening day at state swim meet

Ashland High swimmers advanced to today's finals in four of the six individual events and three of the five relays that they competed in during a successful opening day for the Grizzlies at the Class 5A state championships, at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham.

Kai Staal and Gus Simms advanced to two finals apiece and also swam legs for Ashland's 400-yard freestyle relay team, which had the top qualifying time (3 minutes, 20.79 seconds). The AHS boys 200 freestyle relay team also advanced with a third-place showing (1:32.32), while the Ashland girls 200 freestyle relay team had the sixth-best preliminary time (1:44.26) to earn the Grizz girls only berth in a final.

"I think things happened about the way I figured they would," Ashland head coach Steve Mitzel said.

Staal will enter tonight's finals as the No. 2 seed in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.31) and the No. 3 seed in the 50 freestyle (21.55). He will probably have to shave off two seconds in order to leapfrog top-seeded Cameron Lindsey of North Eugene and win the 100 breaststroke, but the 50 freestyle appears to be wide open, with the top three times separated by two-tenths of a second. The race has the look of a District 1 showcase, with the top three seeds all hailing from the four-team league, led by top-seeded Doug Steinhauff (21:35) of Bend and No. 2 seed Tommy Brewer (21.41) of Summit.

"He wants that 50 (freestyle)," Mitzel said of Staal, "and that's going to be a dog fight. But he came out of the water today telling me that he did not go 100 percent. There's still a little bit more, so he's feeling great about that race."

Simms entered preliminaries with the second-best seed time in the 100 butterfly and wasn't far off that district championship pace Friday, but the three swimmers who finished ahead of him — Carlos Hunnicut (51.56) of Springfield, Brandon Risley (53.16) of Cleveland and Sam Donohue (53.42) of Cleveland — all bested their district meet times.

The Ashland boys 400 freestyle relay team — made up of Simms, Parker Massie, Forrest Kollar and Staal — again broke its own school record and finished just ahead of No. 2 seed Summit (3:20.93).

"I'm not a big fan of being the first seed," Mitzel said, "I'd rather be the second seed and be chasing people, but they dropped time again, which is awesome. They're swimming PRs [personal records] every time, and they really want to come out of here with a state championship."

Ashland's girls 200 freestyle relay team (Ada Lawson, Cassie Hall, Maddy Longshore, Sheralyn Shumway) also set a school record (1:44.26), and needed it in order to advance to the final.

Shumway was hoping to represent the Grizzlies in the 50 freestyle as well, but was edged out by one-hundredth of a second by sixth-seeded Sam Oliszewski of Sherwood, 25.64 to 25.65.

"If she wouldn't have cut her fingernails yesterday," Mitzel said, "it may have helped."

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