State meet: Papermakers remain a top-class program
They are the two-time state champions but they are not competing this weekend to defend anything other than their program, their school.
The athletes on the Camas boys swim team just want to have their best times of the season, share some great moments together, and enjoy the last week of high school swimming.
“Winning in the past doesn’t change our expectations. We’re just trying to compete,” senior Christopher Xia said.
It is the journey more than the destination, you see.
Even in the past two years, when Camas won team back-to-back Class 4A state team titles, the Papermakers were not in a win-at-all-cost mode. They just wanted to swim fast, place high, and see if the points would add up to their favor.
Austin Fogel, another senior, said this week’s championship meet means “we have another chance to give it our all.”
The state titles in 2017 and 2018 do not change that approach.
“It’s my last chance to go as fast as I can” in high school swimming, Fogel said.
The Class 4A, 3A, and 2A championship meets begin Friday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way and will conclude Saturday.
Don’t think for a minute, though, that the Papermakers don’t love being state champions. And in a way, it took those two titles for it to really to sink in.
“It’s nice because we finally got some recognition in Camas itself,” Xia said, noting it is a football town.
“They won state, and then we won state,” Fogel explained, detailing the 2016 title in the fall for football, followed by the 2017 swim title a few months later.
The next school year, Xia and Fogel noted with smiles, there was only one boys team from Camas to win state.
Camas coach Mike Bemis said one has to go back decades to find another Southwest Washington team that won a boys team title in swimming. So yes, the Papermakers really did put the town on the WIAA swimming map.
“We’ve kind of noticed,” Xia said. “There is a little bit of a target on our backs. When we go to state, a lot of people are going to try to beat us.”
“It definitely feels a little different,” Fogel said. “When you walk into a room, everyone stares at you. They see the Camas sweatshirts.”
They earned that right to be proud of this program. They also know that state championships do not come easy.
“We are a prideful group. We have worked hard to be where we are right now,” Camas coach Mike Bemis said.
This season threw a changeup Camas’ way when the team had to change training facilities and start practice at 5:30 a.m. on most days.
“It’s worked out well. They are a dedicated group,” the coach said.
Seven Papermakers are going to state: Xia, Fogel, as well as Jaden Kim, Luke Bales, Jack Harris, David Peddie, and Josef Kiesenhofer.
The coach noted that is not ideally the number needed to make a run at a team title. Seeded around eighth, Bemis said he would be thrilled with a top-five finish.
Xia is competing in two relays as well as the 50 freestyle. He had to take all of last summer off of training and said he has not yet picked up his speed from a year ago, but he will give it his best. He wants to make the finals in his individual event.
Fogel is competing in two relays as well as the 100 breaststroke. Seeded 12th, he wants to go up a few places.
The main priority, though, is to represent Camas. For the seniors, this is it.
“It is a bit surreal to think, ‘Oh wow, it’s all over,” Xia said.
“I’m just trying to end it on a good note, do the best I can” Fogel added. “Regardless of how we place, it will just be fun to swim with the team one last time.”
For schedule of events and list of all athletes competing at state swimming, go to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s tournament central page for swimming: