Hillcrest High swimmers keeping pace in the fast laneMar 30, 2023 03:35PM ● By Julie Slama
The Huskies competed at the region swim meet, where the boys finished third and the girls placed seventh. (Photo courtesy of Alyssa Powers)
Heading into his senior season in the pool with a new coach, Hillcrest High’s Ray Powers didn’t quite know what to expect.
“Our coach really pushed everybody and was more involved with all the members of the team,” he said. “She worked with each individual helping them out. My main goal was focusing on my 100 breaststroke this year because in the past, it was kind of a mixed bag. In the end, I knocked off three seconds, which is a pretty big deal for me.”
He also swam his personal best for 50 free.
“It was a huge improvement; with swimming, it’s all about you and pushing yourself to whatever you can do,” said the student-athlete who is an international baccalaureate student and the only member of the swim team who earned Academic All-State recognition.
When Powers isn’t in the water, he plays the viola in the school orchestra, recently performing at its concerto night; and participated at regionals on the school’s eSports team.
He also carpools home from practices and swim meets with his younger brother, Thomas.
“It’s nice just having somebody to talk to, and I introduced him to the team last year. Now, people say, ‘there’s the Powers brothers” and it’s good to be represented by him because by extension, those who don’t know me, think I’m a really good swimmer like he is,” Ray Powers said.
Sophomore Thomas Powers swam the 100 breaststroke at the state meet for the Huskies, dropping one half-second to finish 19th with a time of 1:03.90.
Earlier in the season, he was averaging between a 1:07 and 1:10.
The night before a dual meet when he couldn’t sleep, he watched a YouTube video and learned his arm stroke was too wide, so he corrected that the next day. As a result, his time improved by about three seconds.
With the help of his coaches—Elizabeth Drake and Tom Huddlestone—he improved his turns and dropped more time.
“I’ve gotten some good tips; our new coach has a lot of energy,” Thomas Powers said.
The year-round swimmer is already figuring out how to get faster with summer practices, weights and cross training on a soccer team. He hopes a medley relay team will qualify for next year’s state meet.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie on the team,” Thomas Powers said. “This year, everyone comes and is included in practice, and it builds a lot of unity. We’re all trying our best and everyone is cheering for everybody. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed.”
That change—everyone coming to the high school practice instead of club practices—may have cost Drake a few swimmers, she said, but in the end, it has built up the team.
“The culture of the team and mindset of those who are joining the team know we’re growing this program and want to set the bar higher,” she said. “We have surpassed many previous expectations and as a result, the swimmers are more dedicated. They’ve become more motivated to realize their own potential.”
The Huskies not only qualified Thomas Powers for state, but also freshman Alex Skorat in 100 backstroke. He swam 57.62 to finish 23rd, improving his time by two seconds and placing him nine spots ahead of his seed.
At region, the 26-member boys team with five seniors, including captains Luke Parker and Swayam Sakpal, finished third.
“It was stellar. I was stoked,” Drake said. “We finished better than expected.”
Freshman Daniel Emett finished sixth in 500 free with a time of 5:34.95. Parker finished 0.5 seconds faster, taking fifth. She also recognized the improvements of freshman Joel Curtis and sophomore Jacob An.
Drake was pleased that “every single girl on the team dropped time in one or more of her races. For everyone to get a PR, that doesn’t usually happen, so it’s really cool.”
The 13-member girls team took seventh at region. Drake was pleased with sophomore Maddie Peterson medaling in 50 and 100 free, sophomore Olivia Hermanson’s 100 backstroke time as well as improvements from captain and junior Evie Pendleton, sophomore Lucy McDonough and newcomer Kennedy Pew.
Drake pointed out that as there aren’t any seniors, she said they’ll all be returning next year. On the boys team, the majority of swimmers are sophomores and freshmen.
“With us moving to 4A next season, we’ll still have some really tough schools,” she said. “But we’re getting stronger and we’ll be heading for more success.”