Nelson's record-setting 200 medley relay (from left): Mason Hopper, Evan Escobar, Drew Eubanks and Quinlan Gould.
Nelson's record-setting 200 medley relay (from left): Mason Hopper, Evan Escobar, Drew Eubanks and Quinlan Gould.

Last season, an OSAA meet record in the 200-yard medley relay provided consolation for a Nelson team that came within an eyelash of its first state championship.

This season, the senior-dominated Hawks – in the program's third year – are intent on completing their rise to the top.

“This will be their last year to really go for it and have a special team around them,” coach Sam Nelson said. “They're all looking to make some noise at the state meet again.”

Nelson scored 108 points in the 6A meet last season, but perennial power Jesuit took the title with 114. The Hawks were left to mull the what-ifs, including Tyson Elliott's district-meet disqualification in the 100 breaststroke. He was a finalist in the event in 2022.

“Honestly, we were one DQ away from maybe winning the whole thing,” Nelson said. “With his points, I think we would've overcome that six-point deficit.'

The Hawks will miss Quinlan Gould, who repeated as the state backstroke champion last season, setting a 6A meet record, before moving on to a college career at Arizona State. Gould also was the state runner-up in the 50 freestyle and swam legs on two state champion relay teams.

But Nelson is loaded with elite swimmers.

Senior Mason Hopper was the state champion in the 100 butterfly as a sophomore and the 200 freestyle last season, when he also finished a close second in the 100 freestyle. Sophomore Drew Eubanks punctuated a brilliant freshman season by winning the state title in the 100 breaststroke and taking fifth in the 200 I.M.

Seniors Elliott (10th in 200 I.M.), Adrian Dulong (sixth in 500 freestyle) and Evan Escobar (ninth in 100 butterfly) also placed at state and contributed on the relays.

“They're really motivated for this year,” Nelson said.

Eubanks is ranked No. 1 in the country in the breaststroke for his age group. He swam 56.93 at the state meet in February and a personal-best 56.09 at Speedo Sectionals in March. The OSAA meet record is 55.40, set by Oregon City's Brian Frazier in 2016.

“He has the 100 breaststroke record in his sights,” Nelson said.

Nelson said Eubanks – whose senior sister, Amelia, placed fourth at state in the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke last season – has “Olympic potential.”

“He's just got a work ethic like none other,” Nelson said. “He's got a great head on his shoulders. He's so mature for his age, and responsible.”'

Hopper, who has committed to Arizona, also could threaten a record. He clocked 44.79 in finishing second in the 100 freestyle last season, moving close to the OSAA meet record of 43.70, set by Westview's Morgon Henderson-Kunz in 2009.

“That record is within reach for him,” Nelson said. “That's something that's really motivating him. He could have won the 100 fly every year, but he really wants to go after it in the freestyles.

“Mason is just an animal. He can do everything at such a high level. He's really well rounded.”

The Hawks also are expecting big things from Dulong.

“He made a huge drop last year in the 500,” Nelson said. “I see him being top three in the 500 this year. His times have been dropping over the summer. He's been on a really good workout routine.”

In the state meet, Hopper, Eubanks and Escobar joined Gould to set the OSAA meet record in the 200 medley relay (1:33.38). Hopper, Escobar and Elliott teamed with Gould to win the 200 freestyle relay. Eubanks, Escobar, Elliott and Dulong took fourth in the 400 freestyle relay.

Nelson said he has to “do some shuffling around” on the relays this season.

“We're definitely going to go for the gold on a couple relays,” he said. “But this year, without Quinlan, we've got to split the talent around the three relays to maximize our points at the state level.”

The Hawks are unlikely to challenge their own relay record.

“That's not what we're really shooting for this year,” Nelson said. “We're definitely going to try to win a couple relays, but as far as records go, no.”

The Hawks expect to battle Jesuit and West Linn for 6A supremacy.

“I think it'll be a really competitive state meet,” Nelson said.