Churchill swimming led by two repeatedly state champions and Division I engages
This is shaping up to be another great season for swimming at Churchill.
The boys’ team won the school’s first-ever state championship in the Class 5A meet in 2020 and followed with a title in last year’s end-of-season makeshift meet, a 6A / 5A combined event which mainly featured teams from Lane County.
This season, it could be the women’s team that breaks through with the program’s first state championship.
“The girls have a very good chance this year of winning a first-place finish in the state,” said Churchill swimming coach Megan Murphy. “We’re a little skinny on the boys ‘side, but the girls’ squad is bigger than it was and we kind of have the perfect storm.”
At the heart of this perfect storm is senior Kylie Taylor, a two-time state champion who signed a letter of intent to swim for Pepperdine next year. Taylor has twice won the 100-yard backstroke at State 5A competition and she won that event again in last year’s domestic competition. She holds Churchill’s school record in the 100 backstroke (57.11 seconds) and is approaching the 5A record of 54.91, set in 2017.
Taylor, like many elite swimmers, does double duty in the winter by swimming for his high school and club teams. She recently returned from the Junior Nationals in Austin, TX where she benefited from the experience of big competitions while preparing for a big senior season.
“I wasn’t really supposed to go but I qualified like the weekend before,” Taylor said of the junior nationals. “It was sudden for me so I just wanted to experience it.
“I really want to waste more time. For high school, winning the national team title and individual events is an important goal for me. For the club, since I’m already committed (for Pepperdine), it’s just about wasting time.”
Recruiting varsity swimming is already very different from other sports, but the past year has been complicated with COVID-19 and the cancellation of many events. Taylor kept his options open for as long as possible, then met Pepperdine’s coaches at a club reunion earlier this year in Santa Clarita, Calif.
“The Pepperdine coaches were there and I really clicked with them and then I went to visit the campus the next day,” she said. “It’s really hard to tour campus and not want to go. I just knew this was where I wanted to go.
“Pepperdine has always been near the top of their conference, so just giving the team points at the conference meet is a goal and leading relays is also important. Really, I just want to work for the purpose of going faster. “
In addition to Taylor, the Lancers have extra firepower in juniors Kelsey Wasikowski and Lauren Larsen. Wasikowski won a 5A state title in the 50 freestyle in the freshman and won the 200 and 500 freestyle at the Lane County meet last year. Larsen set a school record in the 200 IM last year (2: 12.07) and Wasikowski also swims several events, giving Churchill plenty of opportunities to score in the state competition.
On the boys’ side, Churchill has lost all of his state scorers in 2020 except senior Charley Page-Jones, but the senior will still be a splash in the pool this winter.
Page-Jones is a four-time state champion, winning the 50 and 100 freestyle in both freshman and sophomore, then winning both titles in the Lane County meet last year. Page-Jones, who signed his letter of intent to swim for UNLV next season, holds school records in the 50 freestyle (20.98), 100 freestyle (48.23) and 100 butterfly (49.36), and he is approaching Casey McEuen’s 5A state records in the 50 freestyle (20.18) and 100 butterfly (49.19).
“I’m hoping to get the 100 fly record,” Page-Jones said. “I was under that time at the Juniors (48.87) so it would be really cool to beat that record.”
The elder Churchill began his recruiting process last fall not knowing what to expect due to COVID restrictions and protocols.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, but I spoke to some people and started sending emails and making phone calls,” he said. “Towards the end, UNLV contacted me and asked if I wanted to go out to Vegas and see the campus.
“I’ve had pretty extensive conversations with the coaches. I really liked the philosophies of all the coaches. They are all very knowledgeable and they have well-defined values in their program.”
Page-Jones has set goals for his time at UNLV.
“My hope is to be able to make a relay team (next year). I think I could be a pretty good butterfly,” he said. “The four-year plan for me? I want to be able to attend NCAA competition and compete. I don’t know how far I can go. My main goal is to take care of all my academic affairs.”
The main focus this year is to see how many school and state records are crumbling.
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