Daniel Stowers, Dylan Ford, David Rankin and Joe Oyala team up for relay championshipGRESHAM - "Chasing La Grande" was the name of the game at this year's state swim meet as the rest of the boys' field was chasing the Tigers Saturday afternoon during the finals of the Class 3A/2A/1A meet at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

And it was Seaside that came the closest to catching La Grande. The Gulls finished as the runner-up for the second time in three years.

The Gulls' 200-yard freestyle relay team took the championship, while La Grande won six events on the boys' side. Seaside's winning team featured Daniel Stowers, Dylan Ford, David Rankin and Joe Oyala. They won their event in 1:32.51, narrowly edging Junction City (1:32.91).

Seaside racked up 49 points to the Tigers' 63. Junction City placed a close third with 44 points.

Seaside's Joe Oyala, left, holds up the second-place team trophy won by the Gulls in Saturday's state swim meet. Teammate Dylan Ford is on the right.

GARY HENLEY - The Daily Astorian

The Seaside/Warrenton girls scored three points in the finals for 15th place, while Sherwood won the girls title. Astoria failed to qualify any swimmers for Saturday's finals.

"You always have hopes for the No. 1 spot, but La Grande is just super-tough," said first-year Seaside coach Dan Chamberlain. "Their top guys are so solid, we would have had to pull off miracle swims to do it.

"I'm still very pleased," he said. "There was a chance. There are so many variables of what can happen, but from how it looked on paper and how it was seeded, we ended up where we should have."

The Gulls had several unexpected performances in the preliminaries Friday, as Jonathan LaLonde (11th seed in the 200-yard freestyle and seventh seed in the 100-yard butterfly), qualified for the finals in both events, as did seventh-seed Oyala in the 100-yard freestyle and 11th-seed Stowers in the 100-yard backstroke.

"Everybody stepped it up, and that's what we had to do," Chamberlain said. "All those No. 7 seeds that we were looking at with no points, everybody made it into the finals. We'd have one move down, but then somebody else would move up."

Ford - just a freshman - placed second in the 100-yard breaststroke, then swam the lead leg on Seaside's 400-yard freestyle relay squad, which placed second in the final event to clinch second-place in the team standings.

With three events left, the Gulls trailed La Grande by 10 points, and led Junction City by three.

"Considering how things looked, I got real nervous even before the 200 free relay and the 400 free relay," Chamberlain said. "Junction City was chasing us in that last relay. They were down three points, and if they would have beaten us, they would have been second. That's how close they were. So I'm extremely excited to finish up where we did."

The Gulls placed second in the 400 free relay in 3:27.37, to Junction City's 3:28.42.

Rankin was ranked third in the 200-yard individual medley, but was disqualified on a turn in the prelims.

"If we would have had (Rankin), we still would have ended up one point shy," Chamberlain said.

The Gulls will lose Rankin, LaLonde and Oyala to graduation, while several other swimmers will return to keep the Gulls afloat for years to come.

"It's a very good way to go out for the seniors," Chamberlain said. "But with Daniel (Stowers, a sophomore), Dylan (Ford) and Rebecca (Fisk, a sophomore) - we still have some years left with them.

"We may not be back with the power and force we had this year, but we'll be back," he said. "We built a team this year with some young kids. They were squiggling from one end of the pool to the other at the beginning of the year - and by districts, they were really swimming well.

"They made such huge progressions this year, that next year it's going to be really exciting."

In other events, the Seaside boys placed second in the 200-yard medley relay, in which La Grande set a new state record (1:42.52); Stowers took fourth in the 50-yard freestyle (23.36); Oyala added points with a fourth-place showing in the 100-yard freestyle (51.91); and Stowers took fifth in the 100 backstroke.

Fisk had the best finish for the Seaside girls, taking fourth in the 500-yard freestyle.

Chamberlain swam at Astoria, and was surprised to see the Fishermen fail to qualify for any final events, although the Astoria teams were plagued by sickness in the week leading up to state.

"It's interesting to see how you can look at that," Chamberlain said. "Both their boys and girls can be so close at districts (Astoria girls were district champions), then all of a sudden, you come to state. A lot of it has to do with depth.

"That's how we got away with beating La Grande in The Dalles," he said. "But when you get to state, it's just the top people scoring points. (Astoria's) building year was this year, and we have one next year."


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