By NATHAN WHALEN
Special to the News-Times
Oak Harbor’s boys swim team made their mark in the Northwest Conference Invitational that took place Friday and Saturday in Anacortes.
The Wildcats placed fourth among 10 teams competing over the weekend.
“That was a pretty good showing,” boys swim coach John Chargualaf said. “This is one year where we came in pretty strong.”
He said the Bellingham schools, along with Anacortes and Mount Vernon, also have strong teams. The Bellingham area, with a strong private swim team in the city – Bellingham Bay Swim Team — produces some of the best swimmers in the north Puget Sound.
“It’s always a struggle to get up there,” Chargualaf said of placing in the swim meet.
Anacortes won the meet held at the Fidalgo Pool. Sehome placed second, Squalicum placed third and Oak Harbor placed fourth.
Oak Harbor junior Dylan Comly tied for sixth place in the 50 freestyle, and he is close to qualifying for districts. Senior Julian Paraiso placed fourth in the 100 butterfly, Chargualaf said.
He added Oak Harbor’s 200 medley relay placed fourth. The team consisted of Comly, Paraiso, junior Anthony Fillmore and senior Caden Guy.
In past years, 25 swimmers signing up would be a good year, Chargualaf said. This year’s squad has 42 swimmers on the team.
“Post-pandemic you see a lot of kids coming back to sports,” Chargualaf said.
The team has 12 seniors along with a large group of underclassmen.
“A lot of our freshman and sophomore swimmers are really strong swimmers,” Chargualaf said. “They are really athletic.”
He highlighted the leadership of team captains Paraiso and junior Calum Mannion.
The team followed their strong showing in Anacortes when they hosted Bellingham Tuesday winning 87-83.
“The veteran swimmers and some of the newer swimmers stepped up,” Chargualaf said about the meet against Bellingham.
The 200 Individual Medley relay team, this time consisting of Fillmore, Pariaso, Comly and Ripley Gray, who won, as well as the Comly’s second-place effort in the 50 Freestyle.
Chargualaf also highlighted the efforts of first-year swimmer Ayden-Paul Bancaya in the 200 Individual Medley, as well as the 400 Freesyle Relay team that placed second. The team consisted of three first-year swimmers Brayden Smith, Matthew Mascho, Jack Murray, as well as Calum Mannion.
Oak Harbor traveled to Bellingham Thursday and came up short, losing 94-74. Mascho won the 500-yard Freestyle and Chargualaf highlighted the efforts of Alex Aguinaldo and Jacob Blackwell.
The Wildcats wrap up their regular season Jan. 30 when they host Ferndale. The meet Tuesday is also their senior night.
Junior varsity championships take place Feb. 2 at Bellingham and the 3A District 1 championship takes place Feb. 9 at Snohomish.