Lydia DiGennaro and Kaiya Doty finished first or second in a combined nine events, and Lillian Dupuis, Maverick Varland, Carter Randall, Skyler Coburn and Danner Varland each had a hand in top-10 times to highlight The Dalles swim team at the two-day Heat Blast-Off Invitational ending Sunday in Hillsboro.
“All the swimmers competed hard and it is fun to see them keep improving,” Coach Scott McKay said.
In all, The Dalles fielded a group of 12 swimmers from the age of 8-13 for this championship format meet, where participants competed in preliminary rounds with the six fastest athletes qualifying for the finals, similar to that of district and state meets at the high school level.
DiGennaro, 12, signed on to race in six events, with her two victories coming in the preliminaries of the 50-yard butterfly (32.94 seconds) and 50-yard freestyle with an ‘A’ time of 28.54 seconds.
Getting that ‘A’ time was a special moment for DiGennaro.
“I was really nervous when I swam the 50-yard freestyle, but when I heard my time, I was so happy, I started crying,” DiGennaro said. “This was a great accomplishment. I’ve been wanting to swim an ‘A’ time for a year, so I’ve been working extra hard in practice. Coach Scott has helped me achieve my goal by pushing me hard in practice and working on my technique.”
In her 50-yard freestyle finals race, DiGennaro had a mark of 28.61 to grab runner-up status, and she added another second in the 50-yard butterfly finals with a 33.81.
DiGennaro tacked on a second-best 1:02.89 in the 100-yard freestyle prelims and placed second in the finals after touching the wall in 1:04.02.
She timed out in the 50-yard breastroke at 44.39, scored third place overall in 6:49.64 in her try in the 500-yard freestyle, and she was fourth-best in the 100-yard individual medley finals with a marker of 1:19.68.
As one of the younger swimmers under coach McKay’s watch, Doty, 8, looks to be a future standout in the eight-and-under division, as she tallied top-3 outcomes in all six events, including a 50-yard breastroke victory, where she turned in a 54.50.
Doty placed second in the 25-yard breastroke (25.24), 100-yard individual medley (1:59.89) and 25-yard butterfly (21.47).
Wrapping up her day, Doty picked up third-place honors in the 25-yard freestyle (18.94) and 50-yard freestyle (45.81).
Lillian Dupuis, 12, was sixth-best in her preliminary try in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 3:07.77 to move into the finals, where she added another sixth-place mark of 3:09.72.
She also pulled through for a 46.46 in the 50-yard backstroke, went for a 54.22 in the 50-yard butterfly and hit a 1:32.11 in the 100-yard freestyle.
In her first meet, Megan Lenardson, 13, had a 1:38.85 in the 100-yard freestyle and she hustled home in 2:08.92 for 13th place in the 100-yard backstroke.
Amaryllis Marlinga, 10, notched a final time of 58.92 in the 50-yard backstroke in her second meet.
On the boys’ side, Coburn, 12, had a full slate of swim events with top-10 placings in the 100-yard breastroke (1:39.16), 50-yard breastroke (45.46) and 50-yard freestyle (34.07).
He then had a 1:22.33 in the 100-yard freestyle, went for 48.32 in his 50-yard backstroke and hit for a 1:30.47 in the 100-yard individual medley.
Maverick Varland, 9, enjoyed his best finish in the 50-yard breastroke, where he posted a sixth-place mark of 56.28, and he placed top-14 in the 50-yard backstroke (50.96) and 100-yard freestyle (1:33.73).
Everest Lenardson, 10, was another first-time swimmer, and he scored a time of 2:16.56 in the 100-yard freestyle, Rhett Loughmiller, 9, secured a 1:39.62 in the 100-yard freestyle and went for a 59.57 in the 50-yard backstroke in his second meet of the campaign.
Danner Varland, 7, raced to seventh place in the 50-yard backstroke with a time of 1:34.02, and he placed 11th overall in the 25-yard freestyle with his 34.64.
Randall, 12, placed in four of his six races over the weekend and put up his best outcome in the 500-yard freestyle with a 16-lap mark of 8:12.62 to claim eighth place.
He notched a 47.71 in the 50-yard butterfly, touched the wall in 36.03 in the 50-yard freestyle and placed 19th in the 100-yard freestyle after a 1:22.92.
“Most everyone set personal bests and we had several swimmers qualify for finals as one of the six fastest swimmers in their events,” McKay said.
Currently, the swim team has more than 30 swimmers practicing during the winter season, as these athletes only have two practice sessions a week, making it a tough task to compete with other teams that practice five days a week, so the progress made by this group is something McKay takes pride in.
“Even with that limited practice time, the swimmers are improving their times,” McKay said. “It is a good group of swimmers with tremendous potential, and we are working to make the best of what we have. We are looking at continuous improvement and hope to have a larger contingent attend the Oregon City Meet on the second weekend in March.”