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SUnset's Four-peat is oh so sweet

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior Jonathan Zoucha won state titles in the 100 butterfly, 200 free and was on the Apollos 200 medley and 400 free relay teams.

In a way, it’s almost fitting Sunset’s fourth straight state championship didn’t come down to a single Apollo, one competitor with whom history rode on his arms and legs in one solitary race.

No, the Apollos’ ascent into the state’s exalted, members-only association, appropriately boiled down to the wings of Jonathan Zoucha, the guts of Braden Esping, the strength of Josh Noll and the fast-paced feet of Tristan Furnary— a foursome of boys’ swimmers who had one 400 freestyle relay race to hold back a state title-starved Jesuit team, but importantly leave their names in the all-time record books.

Zoucha — already a three-time state champion on the day in the 100 butterfly, 200 free and 200 medley relay— zipped into the pool first and built an early lead. Esping— who took fourth in the 50 free—jumped in next and protracted the lead over Jesuit, swimming two lanes away. Noll powered through his portion of the race and gave way to Furnary who confidently finished at the wall ahead of Southridge’s Patrick Mulcare.

“Before the race we just said ‘You gotta do this. There’s no way around it’,” said Noll. “Once we got the lead, we wanted to maintain, pull ahead and see what we could do.”

With the 400 free relay win and four more victories already in the bag, Sunset officially sent itselft into exclusive company, winning its fourth consecutive state championship with 179 points, just 10 ahead of Jesuit’s 169 at Mount Hood Community College on Saturday.

“Going into (the 400 free relay) knowing that we could lose and just throwing everything on the table was what it took,” said Noll, one of three Sunset members to be a part of each state-title winning team. “Four years, four wins, I will take it. I couldn’t ask for more. This is the best year for me because of the ending. Being a senior, I couldn’t ask for a better end.”

“We wanted four all day,” said Furnary. “It’s not just the guys that got in the top three or top-five. Every single point counted, and that’s what it came down to today.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset sophomore Tristan Furnary won the 100 free, took second in the 100 backstroke and anchored the Apollos triumphant 400 free relay team. Furnary was also part of the winning 200 medley relay squad.

“When I look back at age 70 sitting back in my rocking chair, I’m going to think about these days and tell my kids that I was part of the team that won four years in a row,” added Esping. “We were definitely hungry from the start. Even after we collected our three-peat trophy, we wanted to get that fourth and end it on a high note.”

“It was better than last year because it was so close,” said junior Blake Hulstrom. “I love being a part of this team. I’m proud of my seniors, winning four years in a row. I’m just glad to be a part of three.”

Furnary owned about a three-second lead on the anchor leg of the 400 free, but that didn’t stop the youngster’s butterflies from floating, knowing Southridge’s star Mulcare was itching for a rallying final split.

“I was really nervous,” said Furnary. “I was shaking up on the blocks, my knees were wobbling. But, I just wanted to be smart about it and not false start. Then, I just wanted to kill it.”

Sunset sailed to five wins in the day’s 11 events with Zoucha taking titles in the 100 ‘fly, 200 free and Furnary fighting off Southridge’s Matt Braun in the 100 free. The 200 medley relay of Zoucha, Esping, Noll and Furnary started off the day with a victory, and the 400 free squad closed it in winning style as well. Zoucha’s triumphs, along with Furnary’s win and the opening 200 medley win helped set the Apollos up for success the rest of the day in the early events.

Having eight Sunset competitors in the ‘A’ finals on Saturday, after swimming well in Friday’s preliminaries, was also instrumental in going four-for-four.

“We’d much rather be in a good mental disposition rather than have to turn around in the end,” said Furnary. “I’m glad we got that cushion in the beginning because then it was like ‘Alright, let’s go all out and get this done.’”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior Braden Esping swam the breastroke portion of the Apollos winning 200 medley relay at the 6A state championships on Saturday.

Last year’s championship, when Sunset doubled up the 6A’s second place finisher and set a record for team points was the most fun, Zoucha said. But, the 2014 title was the most meaningful because it was so hard to obtain. Every team at MHCC wanted a piece of the Apollos, a chance to ruin the fairy tale ending and commandeer the headlines into its own possession. In the end, those 6A foes just couldn’t stop destiny or the Apollos’ ambition for being one of the state’s select dynasties.

“It’ll be nice to see the fourth banner go up in the gym,” said Zoucha. “It was down to the last race, literally. In each event we did, we motivated each other to move up in each race and score more points. Really, we did that and that’s what helped us succeed.”

“This one is definitely the cherry on top,” said Esping. “It’s the sweetest because it was so close. Every person on our team had to step up. Every person on our team had to put that much more effort in to make up the difference to get the win.”

Furnary — a sophomore— said he didn’t really understand the magnitude of the moment last season when Sunset stormed to a three-peat with little resistance from the state’s opposition. This year, on the other hand, was a grind all the way. The Apollos had to fight to stay unscathed during the regular season. They had to brawl with the young Crusaders at district and again cut it up with them at state. State title No. 4 was definitely cultivated, not given.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - The Sunset boys swimming team won its fourth straight state championship under the guidance of head coach Adam Farber.

“We had to put in the work,” said Furnary. “Today it was just awesome to see everyone swim good, fast races.”

Zoucha won the 200 free by more than three seconds (1:38.72) and nearly took the state record. The University of Louisville commit was just .56 of a second off the 100 butterfly state record as well. Noll took fifth in the 200 and eighth in the 500. Furnary’s second place in the 100 backstroke piled on five more team points for the Apollos.

“We wanted to stay confident and levelheaded,” said Esping. “We wanted to swim our hardest. And, at a meet like this, we wanted everyone to do well. We tried to put our best out there.”



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