Imagine this: An athlete tries a new sport while transitioning from middle school to high school. In four short seasons — yes, they go fast — he goes from learning the basics in that first year to all-state status as a senior.
Sure, it’s not uncommon for a good number of athletes in various sports to show improvement and provide important contributions to a team sport or reach new heights on an individual level. But to be among the best in the state? That’s an exceptional accomplishment.
Tristan Pindell just capped a noteworthy high school swimming career by taking that particular path to the medal stand. The PHS senior placed fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke and sixth in the 50-yard freestyle Saturday in the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A state meet at Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center in Beaverton.
“Tristan learned how to swim his freshman year,” PHS coach Marissa Eng said. “This year, he not only qualified in two (individual) events, but qualified for Day 2 and medaled. He learned to swim less than four years ago, that’s insane.”
Philomath saw its highest placing at the state meet in five years with James Dye’s runner-up finish in the 200-yard freestyle. Patrick Williamson won the 100 breaststroke back in 2015.
“He had a great swim, he was super excited,” Eng said. “It was just like he swam his heart out today.”
Dye placed second in the 200 freestyle in 1:46.97 after going 1:48.10 during Friday’s prelims. Dye was sixth in the 100 freestyle with a 49.85, just under a half-second slower than his prelims time of 49.43.
Dye wrapped up an impressive high school career that included qualifying all four years with six medals — one second, two thirds, two fourths and a sixth.
“It’s been great. I think I may have peaked a little bit late but it all worked out fine,” Dye said. “From districts to Day 2 of state, I dropped 8 seconds, so all my times were great at the end. It all worked out fine.”
In the 200-yard freestyle finals, Nyssa senior Nathan Esplin took command early and ended up winning by more than 3 seconds. Dye’s four 50-yard splits came in at 24.92, 27.01, 27.84 and 27.20 and he finished nearly 1-1/2 seconds ahead of third-place Connor Fromm of Marshfield.
“I was really with my time in that,” Dye said. “I dropped 2 seconds from my personal best.”
Eng said that at the district meet, Dye pushed his limits to the point of just making sure he qualified. But then at state, Dye unleashed from within to finish his high school career on a high note.
“What an outstanding swim to end your high school swim career on,” Eng said.
Dye swam the 100 freestyle finals in an outside lane and ended up sixth.
“You just race the guy next to you,” Dye said when asked about strategy. “Racing the guy next to you is more important than the time.”
Pindell was pleased with his placings in both events although his times did come in slower on Day 2.
“I had a couple of faster times yesterday than I did today,” Pindell said. “But I did pretty well and got to finals.”
Pindell admitted that he was tired after giving it his all on Friday. First in prelims, he swam the 50 freestyle in 23.16 and followed with a 1:04.72 in the 100 breaststroke. His times in those events on Day 2 were 23.56 and 1:05.11, respectively.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to tell how that will fluctuate from day-to-day,” he said. “I just didn’t swim quite as well today.”
Pindell’s 1:04.72 on the first day knocked a second off his previous-best time.
“I think I was pretty relaxed for the most part,” Pindell said about heading into state. “Right before the race, you try to psych yourself up and you get nervous thinking about your race. But I wasn’t overly worried about it. I felt pretty well prepared.”
Pindell’s not the only PHS swimmer to show improvement after being introduced to the sport.
“For Tristan to go from zero to that is something that’s truly amazing,” Eng said. “Same with Amity Coon and Brandon Enghauser, they literally learned how to swim (competitively) their freshman year. I’m incredibly proud of that particular group.”
Pindell, Coon and Enghauser are all seniors along with Jeremy Schaffer, a swimmer that Eng said didn’t learn until his sophomore year. All of them competed at state either individually or on relays.
“Kudos to them and it just shows you … if you work hard and you commit yourself to something — yes, you have to have skills — but that internal guide and focus can really get you further in life," she said.
Three of Philomath’s four relays that qualified for state just missed out on advancing to Day 2. For the girls, the 200 medley relay with sophomore Melia Morton, Coon, junior Maggie Ross and junior Hannah Hernandez (1:59.74) and the 200 freestyle relay with Hernandez, Morton, Coon and Ross (1:50.84) both finished seventh in prelims.
The boys 200 medley relay with sophomore Eli McLennan, Pindell, Dye and Enghauser came in with a time that might’ve placed them among the top six to advance to finals but the team was disqualified apparently because of bad touches.
Coon also just missed advancing out of prelims with seventh in the 100 breaststroke in 1:10.76.
“It’s a bit of a heartbreaker,” Eng said. “In those moments, we try to be appreciative of the opportunity that we have. They did their best and you can’t control what other people do; you can only control what you do. For the relays, we’re learning lessons.”
The 200 freestyle relay for the boys finished ninth in prelims with a time of 1:37.12. Schaffer, Enghauser, Pindell and Dye swam legs in the event. McLennan was 11th in the 100 backstroke in 1:05.72.
In the team standings, Philomath’s boys were eighth overall. Newport won the state title by a large margin over runner-up Marshfield. The girls’ state title went to Sweet Home with Catlin Gabel finishing second.
Pindell will always remember his senior swim season. And he has two medals to mark the occasion.
“It was really cool to be able to go … and getting medals was a step up for me,” he said. “That was all really exciting. I’m pretty satisfied with the results.”
4A/3A/2A/1A State Meet
Friday-Saturday at Beaverton
Team scoring: Newport 90, Marshfield 46, La Grande 33, Salem Academy 26, St. Mary’s 21, Nyssa 14, Valley Catholic 11, Philomath 9, Klamath Union 9, Catlin Gabel 7, Baker 7, Taft 6, Phoenix 5, North Marion 5, Cascade Christian 4, Henley 4, Mazama 4, Blanchet Catholic 3, Astoria 2, Marist Catholic 2.
200 medley relay: Prelims—Philomath (Eli McLennan, Tristan Pindell, James Dye, Brandon Enghauser), DQ.
200 freestyle: Finals—2, James Dye, 1:46.97. Prelims—2, James Dye, 1:48.10.
50 freestyle: Finals—6, Tristan Pindell, 23.56. Prelims—6, Tristan Pindell, 23.16.
100 freestyle: Finals—6, James Dye, 49.85. Prelims—6, James Dye, 49.43.
200 freestyle relay: Prelims—9, Philomath (Jeremy Schaffer, Brandon Enghauser, Tristan Pindell, James Dye), 1:37.12.
100 backstroke: Prelims—11, Eli McLennan, 1:05.72.
100 breaststroke: Finals—5, Tristan Pindell, 1:05.11. Prelims—4, Tristan Pindell, 1:04.72.
Team scoring: Sweet Home 69, Catlin Gabel 50, La Grande 32, Marshfield 26, Tillamook 26, Valley Catholic 20, Salem Academy 17, Sisters 16, Marist Catholic 15, Baker 14, Newport 9, Madras 5, Corbett 4, Astoria 1, Klamath Union 1, Blanchet Catholic 1.
200 medley relay: Prelims—7, Philomath (Melia Morton, Amity Coon, Maggie Ross, Hannah Hernandez), 1:59.74.
200 freestyle relay: Prelims—11, Philomath (Hannah Hernandez, Melia Morton, Amity Coon, Maggie Ross), 1:50.84.
100 breaststroke: Prelims—7, Amity Coon, 1:10.76.