Treading greater water

Hermiston juniors Georgia Stevenson (left) and Abigail Sharon pose for a portrait after practice on Tuesday evening. The two swimmers will compete in the WIAA state finals this weekend in Federal Way, Wash.

HERMISTON — When Hermiston swimmer Georgia Stevenson first competed in the state meet as a freshman, she could sum up the experience in one word:

“Epic.”

Since then, it’s been two years since the Bulldogs swim team has sent an athlete to state. Stevenson was the only Hermiston girl to earn a trip to the meet.

“It was a great experience,” Stevenson said of her 2017 showing. “I got to hang out with more experienced swimmers. They helped me become a better athlete.”

Soon, Stevenson will get another chance to show her skills in the water at state.

This weekend, Stevenson and fellow junior Abigail Sharon will travel to Federal Way, Washington, to compete against over 20 other teams and over 150 other girls in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association state finals meet. The competition begins on Friday and runs through Saturday. Stevenson and Sharon are the first swimmers in the state of Oregon to make it to state in a Washington league.

But they aren’t concerned about the pressure.

“There’s never been a lot of pressure,” said Stevenson, 16. “I’ve always been focused on how I’m doing, especially at such a big meet like this.”

Like Stevenson, Sharon, 16, shares the enthusiasm for testing the waters at a Washington state competition.

“I’m not nervous,” she said. “It’s something I’ve never done before. I’m excited.”

Sharon earned her trip to state with her third-place finish in the 100-meter butterfly at last weekend’s 3A districts meet in Kelso, Washington. Stevenson was Hermiston’s only other state qualifier with her second-place finish in the 100 backstroke.

“They push each other quite a bit,” Hermiston girls swimming coach Sara Sargent said of Stevenson and Sharon. “It’s nice to see them together. There’s always a little competition between them there. They do everything I ask of them. When it came to districts, they laid it all out there.”

Stevenson and Sharon will be the first of Sargent’s Hermiston swimmers to qualify for state — Sargent took on head coaching duties for the Bulldogs’ girls swim team the same year Hermiston joined the WIAA.

“The team as a whole has made huge improvements. We’ve grown so much,” Sargent said. “It’s bittersweet. It’s my maternal instinct — I want to take everybody to state.”

While their teammates will not get the opportunity that Stevenson and Sharon will this weekend, the two Hermiston swimmers have had their eyes on a trip to state since the beginning of the season.

“I’ve had the idea that I could make it to state,” Sharon said. “That mentality kept me going and pushed me even harder.”

And that kind of motivation is exactly what they will need as they prepare to hit the water against some of Washington’s best swimmers.

“They’re going to be a lot faster,” Stevenson said. “I’m excited to see how we’ll do against them.”

Stevenson and Sharon have both been on the swim team since they started high school. Stevenson has been swimming since was 5, and Sharon since she was 8.

“I love being in the water,” Sharon said. “It just came naturally to me.”

And while the two are currently focused on their upcoming state meet this weekend, their sights are set on a repeat for their senior seasons next year.

“It’s hard to say what one would do without the other,” Sargent said. “I’m hoping they’ll place in the consolation heat race, but I really hope they just take it all in.”

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