When Hermiston swimmer Georgia Stevenson first competed in the state meet as a freshman, she could sum up the experience in one word:

“Epic.”

Since then, it’s been two years since the Bulldogs swim team sent an athlete to state. Stevenson was the only Hermiston girl to earn a trip to the meet.

“It was a great experience,” Stevenson said of her 2017 showing. “I got to hang out with more experienced swimmers. They helped me become a better athlete.”

This weekend, Stevenson got another chance to show her skills in the water at state.

She and fellow junior Abigail Sharon were the first two Oregon swimmers to compete in a Washington girls swimming state meet. Stevenson placed 22nd in the 100-yard backstroke prelims at 1:09.53, and Sharon placed 25th in the 100 butterfly prelims at 1:07.94 on Friday.

Neither of the swimmers were able to advance to the WIAA 3A girls state swimming finals on Saturday.

“State was quite the experience,” Hermiston coach Sara Sargent said. “Although the girls didn’t make it to finals, they had fun. Georgia and Abigail have their sights on state next year. I expect they’ll condition during the off season and swim over the summer, coming back stronger and faster. Throughout the season, the goal is always to strive to be the best, and that’s what we’ll continue to do, year after year, increasing in quality and numbers.”

Before the meet, they said they weren’t concerned about the pressure.

“There’s never been a lot of pressure,” said Stevenson, 16. “I’ve always been focused on how I’m doing, especially at such a big meet like this.”

Like Stevenson, Sharon, 16, shared the enthusiasm for testing the waters at a Washington state competition.

“I’m not nervous,” she said. “It’s something I’ve never done before. I’m excited.”

Sharon earned her trip to state with her third-place finish in the 100-meter butterfly two weeks ago at the 3A districts meet in Kelso, Washington. Stevenson was Hermiston’s only other state qualifier with her second-place finish in the 100 backstroke.

“They push each other quite a bit,” their coach, Sargent, said. “It’s nice to see them together. There’s always a little competition between them there. They do everything I ask of them. When it came to districts, they laid it all out there.”

Sargent took on head coaching duties for the Bulldogs’ girls swim team the same year Hermiston joined the WIAA.

“The team as a whole has made huge improvements. We’ve grown so much,” Sargent said. “It’s bittersweet. It’s my maternal instinct — I want to take everybody to state.”

While their teammates did not get the opportunity that Stevenson and Sharon did last weekend, the two Hermiston swimmers have had their eyes on a trip to state since the beginning of the season.

“I’ve had the idea that I could make it to state,” Sharon said. “That mentality kept me going and pushed me even harder.”

She needed that kind of mentality to hit the water against some of Washington’s best swimmers, which Stevenson said she knew would be “a lot faster.”

Stevenson and Sharon have both been on the swim team since they started high school. Stevenson has been swimming since was 5, and Sharon since she was 8.

“I love being in the water,” Sharon said. “It just came naturally to me.”

Now their sights are set on a repeat state appearance for their senior seasons next year.

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