Shane Spell, Seaside swimmers

Seaside swim coach Shane Spell, left, talks with members of the girls relay team.

The Seaside swim team spent a big part of its Christmas break in the pool, as the Gulls took part in a pair of big meets over the holidays.

The Gulls kicked off the Christmas break with a road trip down Highway 101 for the Newport Invitational Dec. 20.

Newport won the girls’ team title, followed by Taft and Valley Catholic, with Seaside taking fifth out of nine schools. Scappoose took first on the boys’ side, with Seaside seventh.

Seaside’s foursome of Kaisa Liljenwall, Taryn Shay, Brooke Blankenhorn and Nicole Blankenhorn highlighted the Gulls’ showing by winning the 200-yard freestyle relay in 2 minutes, 01.00 seconds.

“With several of our more experienced swimmers battling illness and injury, it was a growth opportunity as some of the newer kids got bumped up into relays and saw some of the tough competition we’ll face at districts in February,” Seaside coach Shane Spell said.

The Gulls returned and hosted their first home meet of the new season last Friday, when Seaside brought in Gladstone and class 5A Scappoose.

On the girls’ side, Scappoose defeated Seaside (98-58), and Gladstone topped the Lady Gulls (89-56), while the Seaside boys defeated Gladstone (120-31), but lost to Scappoose (99-69).

Seaside had second place finishes in both 200-yard medley relays.

For the girls, Liljenwall won the 200-yard individual medley in 2 minutes, 55.0 seconds.

Liljenwall added points with a second-place showing in the 100-yard freestyle (1:05.50), with junior teammate Emily Philbrook third (1:14.11). Philbrook also placed third in the 50-yard freestyle (31.83).

In the 200 freestyle relay, Liljenwall swam the lead leg, followed by Shay, Sofia Shipley and Philbrook teaming up to finish first in 2:06.46.

Shipley added a win in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:34.71).

On the boys’ side, Seaside junior Henry Garvin had the winning time (25.01) out of 19 entries in the 50-yard freestyle, while the Gulls highlighted their meet with a 1-2-3 sweep in the 100-yard backstroke.

Sophomore Leif Rehnert won in 1:13.58, followed by junior Shawn Collins (1:15.24) and sophomore Sean Olea (1:16.19).

Seaside freshman Masyn McCulloch was second in the 200-yard freestyle (2:30.45), and sophomore Sam Heroux took second in the 100-yard butterfly (1:11.69).

The Seaside foursome of Shawn Collins, Leif DeWinter, Luke Verley and Garvin took second in the 200 freestyle relay (1:49.81).

DeWinter placed second in the breaststroke (1:19.12). Seaside finished the meet with a second place in the 400-yard freestyle relay (4:29.79).

“We’re getting to the home stretch of the illness bug, and had a few kids gone for holiday travels, but it was great to be in the home pool, in front of a full crowd and see the kids race well,” Spell said.

The Seaside girls were shorthanded, “but made their swims count with a couple of individual and relay wins,” Spell said. “The boys team is pretty young compared to Scappoose, but battled well. It was fun seeing the great support in the stands and our kids responding to that.”

With school back in session and their health returning, “we’ll be getting everyone geared up for a big push of four meets, two at home, over a 10-day span,” he said, beginning with a match Jan. 15, and ending with a dual meet Jan. 24 at Astoria.

“Lots of potential ahead,” Spell said. “Just getting healthy, and making sure we’re taking care of academics, and then developing a wide range of swimmers for a wide range of events.”

Gary Henley is a sports reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 503-861-8493 or

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