Young Tigard swimming team sees improvement throughout season

Tigard freshman Jocelyn Baxter dives in the pool for the 100-yard backstroke. Adam Littman/Tigard Life
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Tigard swim coach John Ruzicka knows different competitors come to his team for different reasons. 

For some, they’ve been swimming since they can walk. For others, they run cross county in the fall, track in the spring, and are looking for something to do in the winter. 

Regardless of how they ended up in his pool, Ruzicka wants to see his swimmers work hard and improve throughout the season, and that’s exactly what he’s seen this year from both his boys team and girls team. 

“The girls are performing really well,” he said. “We have eight seniors who have stepped up to really lead the team even though three of them are new. They’re dropping time every week. I don’t have any senior boys, but on the boys side, I’m seeing a lot of improvement. A lot of these guys play water polo, so being in the pool and becoming a strong swimmer will definitely help them next water polo season.”

Alysa Gilliat is one of the seniors on the team, and she has been on the team all four years of high school. She said it’s fun to have a younger team, especially when the younger swimmers are working hard to get better. 

“It’s awesome to see the amount of improvement,” she said. “When there are a lot of seniors, there’s a lot of focus on them and the speed they’d built up over the years. It’s really cool to see the development of the younger swimmers as they’re learning and getting so much faster every meet.”

One of her biggest roles as a senior who has been in the program for years to make sure she continues the positive vibes that fill the team year in and year out. She said people regularly tell her how friendly the team seems.

“Mostly I’m trying to pass down the swim team traditions,” she said. “When I was a freshman, there are certain cheers we do and certain behaviors. Me and the other seniors have done a good job keeping the atmosphere we want. There’s very much a feeling of friendliness on the team.”

Ruzicka said that Gilliat and another senior captain, Jill Houston, work together on things like helping him get announcements to the team and organizing out-of-the-pool bonding activities. 

He also said he’s been impressed with two of his junior captains on the boys team, Maddox Baxter and Jonah Adamson. Ruzicka said Baxter is one of his most improved swimmers and he keeps things light, while Adamson is leading cheers and giving pre-meet speeches. 

Other swimmers having strong seasons for Tigard include sophomore Lily Nguyen, who Ruzicka called his “superstar” and said that swimming is her sport. 

“I’m seeing a change from her freshman year,” he said. “She understands what she needs to do. She’s willing to do anything I put her in. It’s really nice having those kinds of swimmers on your team, total utility swimmer.”

He also shouted out freshmen Abby George and Vivian Sherman.

“Both of them are up-and-comers,” he said. “I’m impressed with their work ethic.”

On the boys side, Ruzicka said Ben Wornath has been his fastest swimmer this season and Kai Takeda is a first-year junior who is dropping time “super fast.”

Ruzicka also sees a bright future for freshman Aqeel Dawoodbhai.

“He’s my little sprinter,” he said. “If he stays with it, he’s going to be another standout for us.”

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