Carson Wrathall was looking for a winter sport to play his freshman year.
His first choice, basketball, didn’t quite work out. With only the Hermiston swim team or wrestling team to chose from, Wrathall reluctantly chose the pool.
Now this weekend, the senior will be swimming for his last chance at a state title. And of all the Bulldog swimmers making the trip to the OSAA State Championships at Mt. Hood Community College this weekend, Wrathall has the best chance to place within the top three.
Hermiston head coach Kevin Hamblin shares what put Wrathall on the path to success.
“He won most improved swimmer the three previous years,” the 11th-year coach said.
After Hamblin told Wrathall’s parents that he has the talent and potential to be a top swimmer, he decided to start swimming all-year round — a key to competing at the high level.
After making that decision his sophomore year, the following season he earned a bid to state, and to cap off his final season as a Bulldog qualified for two individual events and is the first swimmer on both of Hermiston’s relay teams competing at state.
“In Carson’s two individual races, he had no competition what so ever,” Hamblin said of Wrathall’s performance at districts, where the boys team defended their championship.
In the 100-yard freestyle, he was only one of three swimmers to clock a sub-50 second time at districts. In the preliminary heats Friday, he’ll swim next to Thurston’s Brady Spear, who enters with the fastest time at 47.65. The top six swimmers in each event will make it to the finals Saturday, and Hamblin believes that’s where Wrathall will shine.
“With his time and his placement, he has the best chance of getting first, second, or third,” he added.
In Wrathall’s second individual event — the 100-yard breaststroke — he sits middle of the pack, and will be swimming in the second heat with the likes of Parkrose senior Joe Lundberg, who enters with the fastest time of the entire field (1:01.41).
Wrathall is only one of two Bulldog boys competing in individual events. Junior Ryan Barnard will try his luck in the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard individual medley (IM). He earned the district title in the IM by nearly 15 seconds by clocking 2:05.08, and is swimming in lane two during the first heat Friday.
Wrathall and Barnard also help make up the two relay teams making the trip for Hermiston. The 200-yard freestyle relay — with Wrathall, Seth Buck, Lane Stevenson and Barnard — won a district championship in 1:36.57 last weekend, while the 200-yard medley relay came in second (1:49.00) behind Hood River Valley.
The relay teams are poised to make a splash, and make up the biggest group Hamblin has ever taken to a state competition — in his 36 total years of coaching.
Adding their name to the mix is freshman Georgia Stevenson, who automatically qualified for state after winning first at districts in the 100-yard backstroke.
With a time of 1:10.14, Stevenson is the slowest of the bunch but Hamblin is confident in her ability to swim a new personal best.
“All these kids, every time they swim, it’s the best they have swam in their entire life,” he said. “Even if its one-hundredth of a second off.”
Stevenson will be up against Cresent Valley’s Soule Lindsey in Heat 1. Lindsey has the second quickest time of all qualifiers, entering sub-60 in 59.43.
Para-athlete Rian Middleton will also be representing the Bulldogs in the mixed 50-yard freestyle, a race that Hamblin believes will be a crowd favorite.
“He’s an inspiration to a lot of the kids,” he said of Middleton. “So, his race is going to be really heartfelt to a lot of people.”
A handful of Pendleton Buckaroos will also be making the trip. On the boys side, senior Shane Miltenberger will be competing in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle.
Juniors Elisabeth House and Landry Huth and freshman Kyndra Nelson will be competing in individual events and also make up Pendleton’s two qualifying relay teams.
The experienced swimmers are no stranger to the state meet, but are looking to improve on last year’s 11th place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
The 2017 district championship team has senior Abby Williams filling in the third spot.
The four will also compete in the 400-yard freestyle relay, where they will have to save off some time since their second place performance at districts (4:04.16).
Individually, House will be competing in the 50-yard free, Nelson in the 100-yard free and Huth in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Competition for the local swimmers won’t being until 6:30 p.m. Friday.
200-yard individual medley
Ryan Barnard, jr. (2:05.08)
Ryan Barnard, jr. (55.65)
Carson Wrathall, sr. (49.92)
Carson Wrathall, sr. (1:03.04)
200-yard medley relay (1:49.00)
(Wrathall, Seth Buck, Barnard, Lane Stevenson, Keaton Mikami, Alexis Perez, Ryland Kestler, Preston Strong)
200-yard freestyle relay (1:36.57)
(Wrathal, Buck, Stevenson, Barnard, Kestler, Strong, Perez, Mikami)
Georgia Stevenson, fr. (1:10.14)
Shane Miltenberger, sr. (1:58.27)
Shane Miltenberger, sr. (5:19.80)
Elisabeth House, jr. (26.69)
Kyndra Nelson, fr. (1:00.6)
Landry Huth, jr. (1:12.92)
200-yard freestyle relay (1:49.70)
(Nelson, House, Abby Williams, Huth, Aspen Garton, Kaiya Spencer, Headley)
400-yard freestyle relay (4:04.16)
(Nelson, House, Williams, Huth, Garton, Spencer, Headley)