Thomas Olsen has been swimming laps around his high school competition since he arrived at Parkrose, where last year he became the Broncos' first state champion since 1977 when he won the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races in the 5A championships.
But it didn't start out that way for the 6-foot-4 junior, who as a youth was a weak link on the 10-and-under relay for the Parkrose-based Blue Crush Aquatic Club.
“He basically did a cannonball bellyflop into the pool,” Parkrose and Blue Crush coach Gary Muzzy said. “But from that point on, he worked. He slowly but surely started reeling people in with his work ethic.”
Olsen always was taller than his foes, but it took him time to physically develop.
“A lot of my competition that was beating me back then, they stopped growing,” Olsen said. “Their core and their arms haven't gotten stronger, but I feel like I'm on this linear path upward. I still don't think I'm anywhere near where I can be physically. I probably have another inch or two in me.”
Fresh off his commitment to USC, Olsen is looking to make a big splash this weekend in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 5A championships at Tualatin Hills Recreation Center.
With personal bests of 1:40.13 in the 200 freestyle and 4:25.33 in the 500 freestyle, he is in position to rewrite some records. He is zeroed in on the 5A meet record in the 200 freestyle (1:39.98, Logan Storie, Corvallis, 2007) and the OSAA meet record in the 500 freestyle (4:25.21, Cameron Stitt, Sunset, 2013).
Setting the mark in the 500 freestyle might take an even bigger effort considering that Jesuit senior Diego Nosack, the top seed in the 6A meet, swam 4:24.80 in his district meet. Muzzy said Olsen is “definitely motivated” by Nosack's impressive time.
“He's got that in his sight,” Muzzy said of Olsen, who last year led the Parkrose boys to fourth place at state, their first state trophy. “It just lit a fire under Thomas a little bit when he saw Diego go 4:24.”
Olsen's PR in the 500 freestyle already is faster than the 5A meet record of 4:27.41 (Storie, 2007). Olsen was hoping to swim faster than the 5A meet records in the Mt. Hood Conference district meet last weekend, but settled for times of 1:40.77 and 4:33.09.
“Those are well within reach for me, and I didn't do it,” he said. “So I feel like I have a chip on my shoulder. I have a lot of motivation going into this weekend.”
Olsen is especially pumped about the 200 freestyle, a race that includes Summit sophomores Landon Egeland (1:43.41) and Holden Short (1:44.42).
“I want to go way under 1:40,” Olsen said. “I really pride myself on the 200 freestyle, even though it's not one of my best events. I'm a distance swimmer, but when a lot of the great swimmers in Oregon are sprinters, and they do the 50, we kind of meet in the middle at the 200. We can compare and see what kind of shape we're in.
“I'd like to solidify myself as one of the best 200 freestylers in the state this weekend. Whatever it takes.”
Olsen set his personal bests in the 200 and 500 freestyle in the Speedo Winter Junior Championships West meet Dec. 8-9 in Texas, but missed his goal of going under 1:40 in the 200. The state meet represents another chance, but considering he is tapering his training with his Multnomah Athletic Club team for the Pacific Northwest Spring Speedo Sectionals in Federal Way, Wash., March 9-12, it's unclear how much he will have in the tank for state.
“In my coach's eyes, if we take our foot off the gas too early, we won't have any endurance to pull us through the meet,” he said of sectionals. “We did the same thing last year and it worked. I think it's a great philosophy.”
Olsen said he is in “great condition” after a grinding winter training block with MAC.
“We did like 21 practices over two weeks, and then we had 'hell day,' where we do three practices in one day, six hours total,” he said. “We haven't taken our foot off the gas going into districts and state. I feel like I have a lot more to give this weekend.”
Olsen has come a long way since those early days in the pool.
“I think middle school is when I really started progressing, when I moved up to Gary's senior squad,” he said. “Gary was like, 'Senior year, I think you can go 4:20 in the 500 freestyle.' That was back when I was 13, 14, and now I'm 17, and I feel like I'm on the trajectory to go under 4:20 my senior year.”
A look at the state meets at Tualatin Hills:
Prelims, Friday, 6:30 p.m.; finals, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Teams to watch: Jesuit, Nelson, Sunset, Lake Oswego, West Linn
Returning state champions: Diego Nosack, Jesuit, sr. (200 IM, 500 freestyle); Quinlan Gould, Nelson, sr. (100 backstroke)
2022 team scores: Lake Oswego 97.5, Jesuit 72, Lakeridge 71, Sunset 59
Notes: Jesuit, which had its run of six consecutive titles interrupted by Lake Oswego last year, is in position to get back on top. The Crusaders, led by the Northwestern-bound Nosack, have a whopping 14 top-six qualifying times. Nosack is going for repeat titles in the 200 IM and 500 freestyle and enters as the top seed in both events. He swam the 500 freestyle in 4:24.80 at district, faster than the all-time OSAA meet record of 4:25.21 (Cameron Stitt, Sunset, 2013). Jesuit also has the No. 1 seed in the 400 freestyle relay. … Nelson, which debuted last season and took fifth place, has the reigning champion in the 100 backstroke in Gould, the top seed. The Hawks also have the top qualifier in the 200 freestyle in junior Mason Hopper (Arizona commit), who won the 100 butterfly last year, and a star freshman in Drew Eubanks, the No. 1 seed in the 100 breaststroke. Nelson enters with the top qualifying time in the 200 medley relay. … Lake Oswego senior Tylor Kim (Penn State commit), part of an OSAA meet record 200 freestyle relay last year, is seeded first in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle. … Mountain View senior Diggory Dillingham (USC commit), who won the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle last year, opted not to compete in high school this season.
Prelims, Friday, 1:45 p.m.; finals, Saturday, 1:15 p.m.
Teams to watch: Crescent Valley, Summit, West Albany
Returning state champions: Thomas Olsen, Parkrose, jr. (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle); Kyle Milburn, West Albany, jr. (100 breaststroke)
2022 team scores: Crescent Valley 65, West Albany 61, Redmond 34, Parkrose 26
Notes: Summit, which won seven titles from 2008 to 2015, and Bend, the champion in 2016 and 2018, come back to 5A after four seasons in 6A. … Reigning champion Crescent Valley has the most top-six qualifying times with 14, including two top-seeded relays, but Summit has nine entries in the top three. West Albany could be a factor, too, with the No. 1 seed in the 200 freestyle relay and juniors Conner Dickerson (leading qualifier in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle) and Milburn, who is going for a repeat in the 100 breaststroke. Dickerson and Milburn were part of a 5A meet record 200 freestyle relay last year. … Parkrose's Olsen (USC commit) is aiming to take down 5A meet records in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle and challenge the OSAA meet record in the 500 freestyle. He is seeded first in both events. … Caldera sophomore Campbell McKean is the top qualifier in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke.
Prelims, Friday, 9 a.m.; finals, Saturday, 8:15 a.m.
Teams to watch: Catlin Gabel, Newport, La Grande, North Bend, Marist Catholic
Returning state champions: Glenn Ricker, La Grande, sr. (100 butterfly); Akira Van de Groenendaal, Catlin Gabel, sr. (100 backstroke)
2022 team scores: Catlin Gabel 53, Newport 39, St. Mary's 36, Madras 27
Notes: Newport had won three consecutive titles until Catlin Gabel overtook the Cubs last year. The reigning champion Eagles have a shot to repeat behind the top-seeded 200 medley relay and two state champions in Van de Groenendaal and junior Hodge Dauler. Van de Groenendaal, who won the 200 IM as a freshman and the 100 backstroke last year, is seeded first in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Dauler has the top qualifying times in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly. … La Grande's Ricker is going for a third title in the 100 butterfly but is seeded fourth.
Prelims, Friday, 6:30 p.m.; finals, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Teams to watch: Jesuit, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Lakeridge, Sunset, Westview
Returning state champions: Sydney Wilson, Jesuit, jr. (500 freestyle)
2022 team scores: Westview 94, Lake Oswego 74.5, Jesuit 54, Lincoln 49
Notes: Metro League teams have won 16 of the last 17 titles, including the last seven in a row. Jesuit, with a meet-high 11 top-six qualifying times, is going for its third title in four state meets. The Crusaders are led by the reigning 500 freestyle champion in Wilson, the top seed in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle, and senior Alaina Pitton (Niagara commit), the top qualifier in the 100 breaststroke. … Lake Oswego, the runner-up last year, has three top seeds in Towson-bound senior Dylan Gustaff (200 IM), sophomore AnneMarie Vlaic (100 butterfly) and the 400 freestyle relay. … West Linn junior Maeve DeYoung (Missouri commit) is the leading qualifier in the 100 backstroke.
Prelims, Friday, 1:45 p.m.; finals, Saturday, 1:15 p.m.
Teams to watch: Bend, Mountain View, Crescent Valley, Summit
Returning state champions: Helena Jones, Wilsonville, sr. (100 freestyle); Vivi Criscione, Crescent Valley, sr. (500 freestyle), Kamryn Meskill, Bend, soph. (6A 50 freestyle)
2022 team scores: Churchill 60, Crescent Valley 55, Redmond 44, Hood River Valley 31
Notes: The addition of Bend, Mountain View and Summit from 6A provides much more competition for Crescent Valley, which has won seven titles since 2007, including 2019 and 2020. Summit and Bend combined for seven consecutive championships before spending the last four seasons in 6A. … Bend has the top qualifying times in the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay. Meskill, the 6A champion in the 50 freestyle last year, is the No. 1 seed in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly. Her freshman teammate, Maddie Thornton, has the top qualifying time in the 100 backstroke. … Wilsonville's Jones (Georgia commit), who won the 6A 100 freestyle as a freshman at West Linn, set 5A meet records in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle last year. She enters as the No. 1 seed in the 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle. … Crescent Valley's Criscione (Grand Canyon commit) is going for her third title in the 500 freestyle. She is seeded second in the event behind Summit senior Ginger Kiefer (Idaho commit). … Churchill senior Kelsey Wasikowski (Arizona commit), who won the 50 freestyle in 2020 and the 100 breaststroke (5A meet record) last year, is swimming the 200 IM (No. 2 seed) and 500 freestyle (No. 4 seed). The top seed in the 200 IM is Mountain View senior Kinley Wigle, an Arizona State commit.
Prelims, Friday, 9 a.m., finals, Saturday, 8:15 a.m.
Teams to watch: Catlin Gabel, Sweet Home, La Grande, Newport, St. Mary's
Returning state champions: Jane Hanson, Catlin Gabel, soph. (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle); Adrienne Tam, Catlin Gabel, jr. (100 butterfly)
2022 team scores: Sweet Home 87, Catlin Gabel 66, Newport 25, Henley 18
Notes: Sweet Home, which has won four of the last six titles, will have to dig deep in what appears to be a highly competitive team race. The Huskies are led by sophomore Kirsten Sautel and freshman Breeza Rodriguez, the top seeds in the 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke, respectively. … Catlin Gabel has two No. 1-seeded relays as well as reigning champions in Hanson and Tam. … The Dalles senior Lydia DiGennaro (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle) and Cove freshman Becca Koza (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle) are seeded first in two events.