Swimming may not attract as much attention as it should in eastern Oregon, but for Pendleton senior Elizabeth Newhouse launching into a backstroke or two is all the attraction and motivation she needs to compete in the sport.
It's not uncommon to see Newhouse atop the girls 100-yard backstroke or the 50 freestyle results by the end of a swim meet, as she fares very well in her bread-and-butter events.
Newhouse was quoted as a "coaches dream" just prior to the start of the season by Buckaroo head swim coach Kevin Hamblin and he has high hopes for Newhouse as the district meet nears.
"Elizabeth always seems to swim at her best in big swim meets," Hamblin said. "Her mental approach is unique and it makes her a very strong swimmer."
Newhouse first qualified for the state tournament her freshman year with the 200 freestyle relay team. As a sophomore, she qualified in the 100 backstroke. She also competed at the state level her junior year and finished 14th in the 100 backstroke.
"I would say my proudest moment so far would be when I went to state my sophomore year," Newhouse said. "I want to qualify again this season and always try to improve my times."
This season Newhouse has posted several strong swim times, and comes off a second-place finish in the 100 backstroke at The Dalles Invitational Jan. 25. She also helped the Buckaroo 200 freestyle relay team earn a first-place finish out of 24 relay teams.
"She has the desire and competitive edge," Hamblin said. "She doesn't want to get beat and her work ethic is great."
Her sophomore sister, Melissa, is also a Buckaroo swimmer and a member of the 200 freestyle team that qualified for state last season. Elizabeth has ambitions of repeating their performance from a year ago and will swim the 200 relay medley with Melissa as well in the district swim meet in Bend Feb. 14.
"I like competing with Melissa and we have a lot of fun," Elizabeth said. "She's a good swimmer and we push each other."
Newhouse found a passion for swimming at age six when her parents, Roberta and Charles Newhouse, put Elizabeth in swim lessons for safety.
"I swam a lot in the summers for three to four hours a day," Elizabeth said. "I like to swim and the competition is a lot of fun."
Growing up in eastern Oregon, creating opportunities for oneself is very difficult as a swimmer, but Newhouse has shown through her strong performances in the pool that collegiate competition is very much a part of her future.
"There are not as many swimming scholarships for college, but I definitely want to swim at the next level," Newhouse said.
Newhouse is not alone in thinking that she can perform at the next level as Washington State University has shown interest in her and Hamblin feels Newhouse can excel at the college level.
"She has the potential to be a great swimmer through the combination of weight lifting, good coaching and good peers to work with," Hamblin said.
Like many seniors, Newhouse is still undecided on where she will attend college, but wants to pursue an education in engineering.
"I'm not sure where I will go, but maybe Washington State or Cornell University," she said.
For now, Newhouse will swim at the Hood River four-way today in her last regular season high school swim meet before the district competition. The competition stiffens at district and Newhouse likes to compete against the best where she likes to swim her fastest.
And even if colleges don't throw swimming scholarships her way this spring, academically Newhouse will probably gain lots of attention and raise some eyebrows to earn a scholarship or two with a 4.0 grade-point average.
Sports reporter Joe McHaney can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-236) or by e-mail at email@example.com.