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Lions look to challenge for Northwest Oregon championship, make waves at state

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Chase Parkhurst races through the breaststroke at practice on Monday at Eisenschmidt Pool in St. Helens.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Audra Lein swims the freestyle.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Chris Cramer swims the freestyle.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Olea Opdahl swims the backstroke.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Lions coach Chelsie Orr chats with Olea Opdahl, Audra Lein, Maggie Wheeldon and Maddie Watt.

The Lions hope to send as many swimmers to Class 5A state as possible with Chase Parkhurst and Trinyty Howard, St. Helens' only current competitors who have qualified.

The seniors reached for the respective boys' 50- and 100-yard freestyles and girls' 200 and 500 frees in February at the Mt. Hood Community College Aquatics Center in Gresham after the Lions missed state entirely in 2016, and it's time to give them company.

"I'm pumped to work hard with some of my closest friends and compete for an individual league title in the 50 freestyle and hopefully break the school record," Parkhurst said. "There are so many talented freshmen coming into the team this year: This boys' team is stacked."

The boys and girls can improve on their fourth- and fifth-place Northwest Oregon Conference finishes as Caleb Rickert is a captain with Howard and one of 10 seniors including Taskca Benjamin, Heather Chambers, Madisyn Beehler, Jeran Walters, Lochlainn Wood, Ryan Edwards and Jayden Alexander.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what the team can accomplish," Rickert said. "I'm not swimming for me, I'm swimming for the team and the friends that I swim with. So I guess what I look forward to this year is seeing what the team is really capable of."

Olive Owens, Olea Opdahl, Chris Cramer, Madeline Watt, Audra Lein, Jasmine Weaver, Hope McDowall, Daniel Suon, Lydia Rose, Aaliyah Nagel, Jeremiah Kaliman and Mikaya Nolan are juniors.

"I'm hoping to improve in the freestyle and backstroke," Benjamin said. "I also hope to make it to day two of district [scheduled for Feb. 10 at Parkrose High School in Portland] this year."

Maggie Wheeldon, Victoria Woolf, Cooper Montgomery and Michael Oehlert are sophomores, and Jake Maher, Isabella Nelson, Nick Brooks and Ryan Maher are freshmen.

"So far this group of athletes make me laugh every day," first year St. Helens coach Chelsie Orr said. "They are really great kids. We have many different levels of ability and we have swimmers who motivate each other. The novice swimmers work so hard at a sport that is brand new to them and they give their all. I couldn't ask for anything more: They make my job not feel like a job."

SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lions boys have plenty of opportunity in the conference as only state champion Hillsboro placed in Gresham, and the girls can gain ground on seventh-place Wilsonville, ninth-place Northwest Oregon medalist La Salle Prep and Hillsboro, which tied for 10th.

ST. HELENS LIONS

COACH: Chelsie Orr (First year)

CLASSIFICATION: Class 5A, Northwest Oregon Conference

2016-17 FINISH: Boys fourth in conference, girls fifth in conference

ROSTER

Trinyty Howard, sr.; Chase Parkhurst, sr.; Caleb Rickert, sr.; Taskca Benjamin, sr.; Heather Chambers, sr.; Madisyn Beehler, sr.; Jeran Walters, sr.; Lochlainn Wood, sr.; Ryan Edwards, sr.; Jayden Alexander, sr.; Olive Owens, jr.; Olea Opdahl, jr.; Chris Cramer, jr.; Madeline Watt, jr.; Audra Lein, jr.; Jasmine Weaver, jr.; Hope McDowall, jr.; Daniel Suon, jr.; Lydia Rose, jr.; Aaliyah Nagel, jr.; Jeremiah Kaliman, jr.; Mikaya Nolan, jr.; Maggie Wheeldon, so.; Victoria Woolf, so.; Cooper Montgomery, so.; Michael Oehlert, so.; Jake Maher, fr.; Isabella Nelson, fr.; Nick Brooks, fr.; Ryan Maher, fr.

SCHEDULE

Dec. 7 St. Helens at Parkrose, 4 p.m.

Dec. 14 Wilsonville at St. Helens, 4 p.m.

Jan. 4 La Salle Prep at St. Helens, 4 p.m.

Jan. 13 St. Helens vs. Milwaukie, Sandy, Wilsonville, 9 a.m., at Olin Y. Bignall Aquatic Center, in Sandy

Jan. 23 St. Helens at Hillsboro, 3:45 p.m., Shute Park Aquatic & Recreation Center

Feb. 9-10 St. Helens at Northwest Oregon Conference Championships, Parkrose High School, in Portland

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