In a phenomenal performance, the Pendleton High Buckaroos boys and girls swim teams combined to win a total of nine first place gold medals Friday at the Intermountain Conference District Swimming Championships at the Hood River Aquatic Center.

Led by boys’ three-time district champion senior Ryan Barnard and girls’ three-time district champion Landry Huth, the Buckaroos swimmers peaked at the right time of the season, swimming faster and stronger than they have all year. Barnard and Huth earned four medals each, with both earning three gold and three silver medals.

“It’s pretty exciting to win three district titles,” said Barnard, who transferred to Pendleton this year after attending Hermiston the previous three years. “This is by far the best performance that I’ve had at districts and I’m very happy with the results today ... My goal is to finish in the top-three of the individual events (200 IM, 100 breast).”

Barnard swam to first place in the 200-yard individual medley with a Pendleton record time of 2:04.32. Barnard also broke a 29-year-old PHS record with a personal record time in the 100-yard breastroke (1:02.04) and combined with teammates Matthew Miltenberger, Cahill Robinson and Tyler Spratling to help lead the Buckaroos to victory in the 200-yard medley relay (1:49.62).

“I did OK, it wasn’t my best performance though and I could’ve done better but it was cool,” said Miltenberger. “I enjoyed competing with a lot of my friends from Hood River and I’m very glad that the RAC (Roundup Athletic Club) gave us the opportunity to swim at their pool for our practice. It’s feels good to qualify for state for the first time ever.”

Barnard will compete in four events at state, including the 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay. The state qualifying Bucks girl swimmers include Huth, Melinda Cramp, Kyndra Nelson, Elisabeth House and Finley Kennedy. State qualifiers for boys are Spratling, Robinson, Miltenberger, Andrew Williams and Kaleo Theis.

The 12-member Bucks boys and 24 member girls squad, guided by second-year head coach Tony Nelson, each earned second place team trophies to cap the meet. The boys totaled 99 points and were runner-ups by just two to Redmond at 101. The girls scored 119 points, placing second to Hood River Valley with 134.

“We’ve had a great season and we just had an outstanding district meet,” said Nelson. “These guys have been working so hard all season long. To cap it off with all the personal records that we set and school records that we broke was just amazing and I’m very proud of these kids. The girls had an amazing performance in breaking a 19-year-old school record in the 200 medley relay, which was just phenomenal. It was just a great day overall for our team.”

Along with winning their prestigious district titles, the Buckaroos have a large contingent of 11 swimmers who qualified for the Class 5A swimming state championships. This season finale meet will be Feb. 15-16 at the Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center in Beaverton.

Pendleton swimmers will compete in the 5A preliminaries beginning at 1:45 p.m. Friday, which will be followed by Saturday’s 1 p.m. state finals. Pendleton has swimmers in 10 individual events and four relays.

“It’s a great way to cap our season and have such a large group of kids qualify for state,” said Nelson.

“We’re hoping to have another great meet there. There’s only 12 swimmers in each preliminary event, so we’re just hoping to move on and finish in the top-six of prelims so that we can compete in the finals on Saturday. That’s what we’re looking for and all of these kids are capable of doing that.”

Barnard also swam strong with teammates Robinson, Williams and Theis to help Pendleton get second in the 200 free relay (1:36.51). Williams, a freshman, took second in the 100 backstroke with a PR time of 1:04.09 and Miltenberger was fourth (1:06.64).

“I feel pretty good about getting a PR in the back and it’s very exciting to reach the state meet as a freshman,” said Williams. “I feel like it’s a very big highlight of my Pendleton High School career. I feel proud of myself for swimming as well as I did. I felt like it was the best I swam all year and I’m at my peak performance level right now.”

Robinson, a freshman, and Spratling earned the titles of two-time IMC District Champions after impressive performances. Robinson won the 200 free (1:54.47) and Spratling took third place at 2:06.89. Spratling, a sophomore, won a district title in the grueling 500 free as he timed in with a PR of 5:43.25, lower his previous best time by nine seconds.

“It’s pretty exciting to win my first ever district championship and it was a really fun meet today,” said Spratling. “I’m excited about going to state, but I’m also a little nervous. My goal is to help our medley relay reach the top-six finals on Saturday.”

Huth swam swiftly to first place in both the 200-yard freestyle (2:12.84) and the 100-yard breaststroke (1:13.52). Huth and teammates Nelson, House and Kennedy combined to finish first in the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:50.50). Huth, Nelson, House and Cramp swam to a very close second in the 200-yard medley relay at 2:01.68, just slightly behind winner Hood River (2:01.52). The girls qualified for state in both of these relays.

“It was a great day for our entire team and it feels really good to win two district titles,” said Huth, a senior, who has also qualified for state four years in a row. “This was the first time I won the 200 freestyle and I was also very happy to win the 100 breastroke for the second year in a row.”

Cramp, a freshman, swam consistently strong too in winning four second place silver medals. Cramp was runner-up in the 100 free (59.14), followed by House at 59.97 seconds. Cramp, who qualified for state in the 100 free, also took second the 100 back (1:07.84) and she combined with junior Janessa Headley and freshmen Kennedy and Alara Campbell for second in the 400 free relay (4:20.66). House recorded top-three medal winning efforts in two individual events. House, a senior, earned a second place silver medal with a strong swim in the 50 free (26.19).

Nelson, a sophomore, swam to first in the 500-yard free relay while setting a personal record time of 5:57.97. Nelson also swam well and took second in the 200-yard individual medley (2:33.28), close behind winner Celilo Brun (2:29.64) of Hood River. Nelson qualified for state a second straight year and she’ll compete in the 500, 200 IM and the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay.

“Our team had a great day and I feel very excited about our performance that we had,” said Nelson, daughter of coach Tony Nelson. “My goal was to go below six minutes in the 500 and so I was very happy that I did that. I’m very excited about going to state, but I’m also a little nervous too. I’m anxious to see how well I’ll be able to do against people from other districts.”

Pendleton brought home a total of 40 top-three IMC District medals. For Buckaroo seniors Lily Yoshioka, Rylee Harris, Sam Attridge, Jill Schulze and Kaiya Spencer, the event marked the final swim meet of their career at Pendleton High School.

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