Jesuit senior Sydney Wilson, signed with Arizona, can go after her third state championship in the 500 freestyle this year.
Jesuit senior Sydney Wilson, signed with Arizona, can go after her third state championship in the 500 freestyle this year.

On the surface, it appears that Jesuit swimming is as dominant as ever.

Last year, the Crusaders swept the boys and girls team titles for the third time in the last four 6A championships, collecting the program's 19th and 20th blue trophies.

But the margins have been narrowing for Jesuit. Pre-COVID, the Crusaders typically had a robust turnout of about 120 swimmers. In the last two seasons, it's been around 75.

According to coach Bryan Butcher, the team is leaning more on younger swimmers.

“The depth is a little bit different this year,” Butcher said. “There are fewer seniors and juniors. In the old days, it was the other way around. Usually our senior group was the biggest. I'm seeing a lower number of kids committing to swimming, and I think that might be happening across the board in swimming.”

The Crusaders figure to be in the hunt for both team titles this year, but they will have to dig a little deeper to finish on top.

Jesuit's girls team appears to be in better position than the boys because of its depth. Led by Arizona-bound senior Sydney Wilson -- the two-time reigning champion in the 500-yard freestyle – the Crusaders must rally after graduating a strong class that included Alaina Pitton, the state champion in the 100 breaststroke.

“We lost three really strong girls, but I feel like the kids that are seniors and juniors, they got a taste of state last year and it kind of surprised them how much time they dropped,” Butcher said. “So they were excited when the season started this year to see what they could accomplish.”

Jesuit's boys lost one of their all-time best swimmers in Diego Nosack, who last year set OSAA meet records in defending his state titles in the 200 IM and 500 freestyle. The Crusaders know that teams such as Nelson (runner-up by six points last season) and West Linn are formidable contenders.

“This one is going to be hard,” Butcher said. “We have to do it with depth. We don't have any people that match their speed. All the kids that have the potential will need to make it to state, and also make it to the second day. If that happens, we'll have a shot.”

Wilson could go for her third state title in the 500 freestyle and perhaps challenge the OSAA meet record. Her personal best of 4:54.03 from her sophomore year is seven seconds off the record of 4:47.34, set by Lincoln's Lauren Thies in 1997.

“I wouldn't say it's out of her reach,” Butcher said. “I really don't know what she can do. She's swam under five minutes several times. She just goes and goes and goes.”

Wilson, state runner-up in the 200 freestyle the last two seasons, is a well-rounded swimmer.

“She can do all the strokes,” Butcher said. “I could put her in the 100 backstroke or the 100 freestyle and she could probably make finals.”

Sophomores Stela Sufuentes (third-500 freestyle, fifth-200 freestyle) and Lisette Soto (eighth-500 freestyle) are the team's other returning state placers. The Crusaders need others to step up if they are to repeat as 6A champions.

“I told the girls that I know they can be in the top three,” Butcher said. “To be No. 1, that's kind of out of my hands. Everything has to go where it needs to go. I think they're confident.”

Jesut's boys are led by junior Tenmy Wangpo, who placed second in the 100 backstroke and third in the 100 butterfly at state last year. Their other returning state placers are seniors Graham Inman (third-200 IM, fourth-100 butterfly) and Kadyn Butcher (fifth-50 freestyle, seventh-100 backstroke), sophomore Julien Lee (fifth-100 breaststroke) and juniors Ian Kia (eighth-100 breaststroke) and Thomas Downey (ninth-100 breaststroke).