Wa-Hi Blue Devil swimmers beat up on La Grande, slip past Pendleton in dual meet

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Wa-Hi's Jonathon Klem during the boys' 200-yard individual medley during the Blue Devils' swim meet against Pendleton and La Grande Thursday at Harvey Pool.

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Wa-Hi's Paul Jones has his goggles slip down his face as he works through the red-eye inducing chlorine to finish with an unofficial time of 2:27.7 in the 200-yard freestyle Thursday.

WALLA WALLA -- Led by senior captains Merrick Calder and Will Bergstrom, the Wa-Hi boys defeated Pendleton and La Grande in their first dual meet of the season Thursday afternoon in the Harvey Pool at Whitman's Baker Ferguson Fitness Center.

The Blue Devils defeated La Grande, 98-64, and upended Pendleton, 85-79.

"We expected to beat both schools because they're smaller than us," Wa-Hi coach Brad Daly said. "They did have some good swimmers, though. We didn't get a lot of first-place finishes, but our depth overcame them."

Calder had one of Wa-Hi's blue-ribbon efforts, placing first in the 100-yard breastroke in 1:06.32. That was about seven seconds ahead of the runner-up, La Grande's Travis Smith (1:13.21).

"I had a pretty good meet," Calder said. "I finished one second behind my personal best in 100-yard breastroke and I got third in the 50-yard freestyle."

"Calder has picked up right where he left off of last year in his times," Daly said. "So that is good."

Finishing right behind Calder in the 50 free was junior teammate Jesse Anderson, who was clocked in 27.77.

"Merrick has picked up right where he left off of last year in his times," Daly said. "So that is good."

Calder was the only Wa-Hi swimmer to go to state last year. He earned his state ticket with a second-place finish in the breast stroke at districts.

Thursday's other first-place finisher for Wa-Hi was sophomore Jonathon Klem, who won the 100-yard butterfly with a personal best time of 58.98. Klem was about two seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, Perry Jennings (100.82) of Pendleton.

"Our first dual meet of the season went pretty well," Klem said. "It was a good start to the season. I dropped some time on events and I have a good feeling about the year."

Klem also finished second in the 200-yard IM with a time of 2:11.69, exactly four seconds behind first-place finisher Matt Cook (2:07.69) of the Tigers.

"Calder was our only qualifier for state last year, but I think Jonathon Klem could join him this season at state," Daly said.

Bergstrom helped Wa-Hi pile up some points with two second-place finishes. He was second in the 100-yard freestyle in 55.04 in the 100-yard freestyle, finishing about two seconds behind Pendleton's Nolan Hill (52.99).

Bergstrom's second-place time in the 100-yard backstoke was 1:05.75. He trailed Pendleton's Brandon Groshens (1:04.89) by less than one second.

"Will had some good times in the 100 freestyle and backstroke," Daly said.

"Overall, our team is improving week by week," Daly said. "Our young guys especially are learning technique and pacing to swim well competitively and putting up better times frequently.

"Our returners are all about where they left off for times from last year."

Sophomore Austin Garrett also finished the meet with two second-place performances. He was the runner-up in both the 200-yard freestyle (2:11.63) and 500-yard freestyle (6:03.66).

"Garrett did really well in the 500 freestyle," Daly said. "He is just now learning to swim competitively and pace himself. I think that he could swim the 500 free 30 seconds faster than he did today with more practice."

Daly was encouraged by his team's overall performance and effort in Thursday's meet.

"It was a good meet," Daly said. "We did make some mistakes, we'll get those worked out in practice and future meets. We'll get much better than today and, as the season goes along, have a great season."

Wa-Hi's next meet with be Jan. 5 against Richland and Hanford at 4 p.m. at Harvey Pool.

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