The Winter Sports Season began this week at local high schools. It is an adjusted and abbreviated season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In The Water

The St. Helens High School Swim Team conducts a water drill during practice at Eisenschmidt Pool.

Coach Instructions

St. Helens High School Head Swim Coach Chelsie Orr gives instructions to swimmers during practice at Eisenschmidt Pool.

To gain insight into the short sports season for the St. Helens Swim Team, The Chronicle checked in with head coach Chelsie Orr.

The Chronicle: Given the abbreviated season, what challenges do you see facing your team as they prepare and move into competition and how are you guiding the team through those challenges?

Chelsie Orr: First, we are just so grateful that we are able to have a season at all. The main challenge we see this season is the size of our team. We usually have 30 percent of our team who is brand new to competitive swimming and they come swim because their friend invited them. Once we get them, they tend to stay. This year we haven't been able to be a presence at the high school and no matter what I have tried, the presence of new team members just isn't there.

The other challenge is with the abbreviated seasons there has been overlap of seasons as well. My swimmers who play tennis, baseball, and golf have had their seasons extend into our first week and we still have not been able to have them at practice at all. The silver lining to that is the athletes who have been to our optional trainings we have been having since March have been given extensive individualized coaching and their strokes and endurance have improved. I am guiding the team with positivity and enthusiasm. We have seen these challenges as ways to be thankful for what we have been given versus what we don't have.

The Chronicle: What will be your main focus in motivating your team?

Orr: My main focus is giving them a season they will remember. This will be something they will (hopefully) never experience again. I grew up in California and high school swimming is a spring sport. When we go swim at Hillsboro in a few weeks we are on the schedule for a meet in their outdoor pool which will take me back to my high school experience and only ever coaching in outdoor pools as well. Backstrokers will need tinted goggles- that isn't normally a concern! We will go into that meet with excitement for this unique opportunity. My other main focus is our seniors. I want to make it as normal of a season for them as possible even though it's short and some things will be different.

The Chronicle: What do you hope each team member takes away from their experience with the St. Helens High School swim team?

Orr: My hope each season is the same- walking away feeling challenged, that they learned something new, and they had fun doing it.

The Chronicle: What team members will be key to watch this season and why?

Orr: For the boys, Jake and Ryan Maher as well as Nick Brooks will be the ones to watch- they all qualified in individual events at State last year and they are strong athletes.

For the girls, the one to watch will be Molly Wheeldon. She is a junior and has also been an individual State qualifier.

The Chronicle: So far, what do you see as the strengths and what do you see as the weaknesses in the team?

Orr: We had the rare opportunity to offer several weeks of pre-season optional training which we have not had in the past. We were together in November for two weeks when we thought the season would start in January, and then we got to start back up in March.

The Chronicle: What schools in the league do you see as strong competitors and why?

Orr: I see all schools as strong competitors in their own way every year- this particular year we all have been dealt this hand of cards, and we don't know what their participation has been like through all of this either.

Follow the St. Helens Swim Team competition results at Look for high school sports featres online at and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.


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