The sudden departure of Ridgeview’s swim coach created an opportunity for a longtime assistant in Redmond.

The Ravens’ previous coach resigned for personal reasons a couple weeks before the Intermountain Conference district meet, and assistant coach Ed Payne took over as head coach, Payne said. Payne has been an assistant with Ridgeview for two years and an assistant coach with the Redmond Aquatic Club Eels for six years.

Now, Payne will lead Ridgeview into Saturday’s district meet in Madras.

“It’s kind of a lot at once, but I have a lot of resources and knowledgeable people I can draw from in my years of coaching,” Payne said at a practice last week. “It was surprising, but it is what it is. I feel a responsibility for how the guys and girls close out the season.

Payne’s first meet as head coach came Jan. 30. The Raven boys went 0-2 in the three-team dual meet with Redmond and host Hood River Valley. The Ridgeview girls defeated Redmond and lost to Hood River. Payne said the unusual pool in Hood River made that a tough meet to judge from.

Ridgeview went on to win a four-team girls meet Feb. 4 in Madras, while the boys finished third.

The Ravens again faced Redmond Feb. 6 at the annual R-Town Rivalry dual meet, losing the combined boys and girls score by a close 243-222. The Ridgeview girls defeated Redmond 142-89, while the Redmond boys won 154-80.

Even with the change, the swimmers have kept a positive attitude, Payne said.

“I’m really happy with the drive of everybody,” he said. “They’re really motivated...I’m really happy with where they are.”

Among those with a chance to reach the Feb. 21-22 state championships are junior Kendall Nave in breaststroke and the individual medley and sophomore Drew Harding in the distance events, Payne said.

Harding’s closest competition in the 400-meter freestyle appears to be Pendleton junior Tyler Spratling. Earlier this season at the Jay Rowan Invitational in Redmond, Harding defeated Spratling by just over two seconds, with the third-place finisher more than 40 seconds back.

“It’s definitely going to be a nice race up in Madras,” Harding said.

With only a handful of seniors, expectations are high for Ridgeview in the 2020-21 season, regardless of how Ridgeview does this season.

“We have a lot of great freshman swimmers that are improving,” Harding said. “I feel like next year, we’ll be giving Redmond some competition for sure.”

The Panthers are the defending boys district champions and a favorite to win the IMC again.

With some leaders stepping up recently, Payne agrees that Ridgeview swimming has a bright future.

“Right now, the thing I’m most impressed with is the maturity and team cohesion they’ve had coming through the last week,” he said Feb. 3.

Reporter: 541-548-2186,

gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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