REDMOND — In late February, it will have been two years since Ryan Konop, then a sophomore swimmer for Redmond High, was the first to touch the wall in the 100-meter freestyle at the Class 5A state championship meet.
Heading into the first meet of his senior season at the Cascade Aquatic Center in Redmond on Thursday night, the plan was for the short-sprint specialist to end up where he did in February 2020 — on the top step of the podium at the state meet.
“I’m not too worried about these smaller meets,” said Konop. “I’ll use them to get better, but I’m aiming for another state title again. That is the goal for now.”
In his two individual events, Konop won the 50-meter freestyle in 24.77 seconds, nearly four seconds faster than the second-place finisher, then beat out teammate Colin Haywood in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 56.80.
Konop’s times last Thursday night — in a four-team meet that included Ridgeview, Madras and Sisters — were a bit slower than the times that won him the 100-meter state title (47.67) and a second-place finish in the 50-meter freestyle (21.74) as a sophomore, but that might be expected after going from swimming year-round to a “wackadoo” 2021 season, as Redmond swim coach Denise DeLeone aptly called it.
There was a bit of rust that built up over the year that saw sporadic pool availability due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Konop does not expect it to last for long.
“It felt a little weird after the first week getting back into the pool,” Konop said. “But your muscle memory starts to pick everything back up where you left off.”
The Redmond boys won the Intermountain Conference titles in both 2019 and 2020 before finishing second to Hood River Valley in the shortened 2021 season, staged in June.
“We are excited to be back in the pool, ready to swim hard and put some points on the board,” Haywood said.
Added DeLeone: “I still think the boys can take the district title.”
But DeLeone also sees what could be the start of a successful run by the Redmond High girls team — which has not reached the state meet since 2018 — in large part to the underclassmen that have recently arrived in the program.
“We have a huge group of incoming freshmen and sophomores who are from the club swim team that are pretty dominant in their events,” DeLeone said. “Eight or 10 of them are all within a second of each other in certain races. Nice to have options for different events, different relays. This is a well-rounded group of girls.”
That group includes sophomore Oliva Still and freshmen Molly Konop and Willow Messner, all of whom had first-place finishes in their events Thursday evening. For six years, the group of underclassmen have been competing — and having success — for the Redmond Aquatic Club.
“I think that this team this year, with a lot of newer and experienced swimmers, we have good chances at placing higher at state,” Messner said. “We are a tight group of fast swimmers.”