Before the pandemic, Jesuit swimming was cruising along as the state's premier program, winning six consecutive 6A boys titles and back-to-back girls championships.
Since then, nothing has been the same for the Crusaders.
The COVID-shortened season didn't include a state meet, and when the Crusaders prepared to defend their titles in 2021-22, two of their best boys (Nick Simons, Matthias Kruetzer) and their No. 1 girl (Fay Lustria) had left the team. Subsequently, Jesuit's championship streaks ended when the boys finished second and the girls placed third in the 6A meet.
As the Crusaders try to regroup this season, they are struggling to develop team chemistry. The lack of pool availability in the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District -- a lingering consequence of the COVID shutdown -- has altered the meet schedule in the Metro League, which means Jesuit won't compete until January.
“When January comes, it's just going to be like, every week, boom, boom, boom, boom,” Jesuit coach Bryan Butcher said. “It affects the community in the sense that the only time when the whole team is together is when we have a swim meet. In January, we'll become more of a team, get more excited.”
It's not like it was before the pandemic, when the Crusaders could spend December vetting their lineup and getting on the same page.
“I feel like swimming – out of all the sports, during COVID and post-COVID – we're still not the same,” Butcher said. “It makes it hard to get cohesive. It is what it is.”
Jesuit is able to have a steady practice schedule at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, but Metro teams that practice at THPRD pools are rotating practices.
“Some of them are swimming in the mornings, some swim at night,” Butcher said.
The change in the meet schedule means that Jesuit won't see its primary league rivals, Westview and Sunset, until a three-way meet two weeks before district. Last year, Westview won the 6A girls title and Sunset placed fourth in boys and girls.
“We're going to call it pre-districts,” Butcher said.
Jesuit's boys team features Northwestern-bound senior Diego Nosack, the reigning 6A champion in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle.
Nosack swam the 200 IM in 1:48.52 last season, just short of the OSAA meet record of 1:48.01 (Van Matthias, Beaverton, 2018). Last week, he finished the event in 1:45.56 to place fifth in the Speedo Winter Junior Championship West meet in Austin, Texas.
“He would love to break that record,” Butcher said of Nosack, who also placed third in the 200 butterfly and fourth in the 400 IM at Austin.
Nosack could threaten the OSAA meet record in the 500 freestyle (4:25.21, Cameron Stitt, Sunset, 2013), too. Nosack swam 4:28.20 at state last season and clocked 4:26.79 in March at Speedo Sectionals in Austin.
“He's just getting faster and faster,” Butcher said. “He has that mentality where he can really bring it in practice. He's always been like that since he was a little kid. He's very quiet and humble about it. Diego is definitely in that discussion as being one of the best to come through here.”
Jesuit also returns junior Graham Inman, who fourth in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 100 butterfly at state, and sophomore Tenzin Wangpo, who took fifth in both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstoke. Junior Kadyn Butcher was ninth in the 100 backstroke.
The girls team has junior Sydney Wilson, the reigning state champion in the 500 freestyle and runner-up in the 200 freestyle. Seniors Olivia Walton (eighth in 100 backstroke, ninth in 100 freestyle), Alaina Pitton (ninth in 100 breaststroke) and Mary Emma Moreno (eight in 100 butterfly) have state experience, and the Crusaders should get a boost from promising freshmen.