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  Big Fish in a Little Pool

Wallace swim team celebrates 10 years with young but talented roster

By: Seiji Wood
Published: 10/1/2019 11:19:29 AM

Tucked away in the hills of North Idaho, just miles from the Montana border, a little more than 140 students mill in and out of Wallace High School.

The small 1A rural school houses many traditional athletic teams, from football and basketball to soccer and softball. But outside the hustle and bustle of mainstream athletics, the Miners possess a team that grew from the determination of a single student and his coach in 2009.

Ten years later, Head Coach Ed Chilgren leads a team of 12 athletes ready to carry on the still young legacy of Wallace swimming.

Chilgren became the Miners’ head coach after his son spent time as a local lifeguard and expressed interest in competitive swimming.

“He was sent a flyer from Idaho High School Swim Association that invited people to swim for their high schools,” Chilgren said. “In ‘09 he was basically a team of one.”

The roster has grown substantially since then, with seven boys and five girls donning the red and black in 2019.

Despite only being a 1A school, the Wallace swim team competes against almost anyone, with competitions against 2A to 5A schools on the schedule.

Injuries can be tough break for a team like Wallace. Last year, the team only had three swimmers at its disposal. 

“The season is going well so far,” Chilgren said. “We’ve had some setbacks with some illnesses and injuries, but that always happens in swim season.”

Most of the team came in with a background in aquatics before joining the swim team by being involved in lifeguarding at the local swimming pool in Wallace. 

The Miners welcomed 11 new faces to start the year, with freshmen Aydin Hazs, Jorden McNeil, Faith Collier, Francis Conboy and Krystyna Johnston joining on. The Miners also welcomed sophomores Teagen Goldade and Jackie Richardson and three juniors in Carter Bailey, Kody Richardson and William Farkas. Sophomore Dorsey Pearson is Chilgren's only holdover from 2018.

New comer Shylynn Rihtarshich stands as the only senior for the Miners. 

“She is fantastic,” Chilgren said. “It’s her first year swimming, but I wish she had three more years of eligibility. We have a bunch of young freshmen girls and she’s like a big sister to them.”

The team has competed in three swim meets and had a decent turn out to each event, resulting in the first school bus ever needed to transport the Wallace swim team. 

The group may be young, but they possess a host of talented athletes. Pearson set a school record in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 2:25.15. Bailey, who is still rehabbing from a torn ACL last year, is only three seconds off the school record 50-yard freestyle time of 25.8. Rihtarshichi won a heat and finished sixth overall in the Post Falls Invitational this year, posting a 50-yard freestyle time of 36.40

Despite the accolades, it may still be difficult for the team to qualify for the state championships. In Idaho, 5A schools compete against other 5A schools, while schools in lower divisions compete with each other for a chance to make it to the state championships. The Idaho High School Athletic Association officially sanctioned high school swimming in 2017, while the state’s first championship took place in 2018.  

“I feel like there should be another division for 3A schools and below for us smaller schools,” Chilgren said. “Before the state took over, your best relay team could go to state. So for six years, Wallace sent a team to state. Then they changed the rules when the state took over.”

The Wallace swim team only has two more swim meets before North Idaho Districts Oct 30. 

“I think all our swimmers will improve greatly,” Chilgren said. “They already have improved quite a bit.”


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