Redmond — In the shadow of Churchill’s first state championship, a team full of youthful talent put their program on the map of the state at large with their performance at the 5A state championships: Redmond. Their state roster comprised of Olivia Still, Molly Konop, Willow Messner, Lily Bezdek, Kylie Haywood, Venecia Kurner Ovalles, and Ashlyn Carnes Dunn put together the best state showing in program history, a third-place finish behind two dominant 5A teams that came down to the final event. All of these young ladies are freshman and sophomores, a testament to the idea that talented youth can compete with seasoned veterans, and that these Panthers are no joke to the 5A landscape after Friday night.
She’s a freshman, she’s fast, and she leads the way of this youthful team, her name is Willow Messner. Qualifying for state on two relay teams, the 50 Yard Freestyle, and the 100 Yard Butterfly, Messner introduced herself to 5A on Friday night with a state title run in the 100 Yard Butterfly by putting up a 57.96 to defeat Hood River’s Sarah Arpag for the state title. Messner also had the fastest splits in the two relay events, along with a third-place finish in the 50 Yard Freestyle to round-up her first state championship performance. It was a state debut to remember for Messner, who will be looked to as the leader of the Panthers program for years to come. Fellow freshman Molly Konop doubles up with Messner as a dual threat, specializing as a Top 3 state contender in the 100 Yard Breaststroke and the 200 Yard IM, along with helping on the two top level relay squads that they both participate on. Their dual threat status will make them not only a good pair, but a constant threat on the radar of opponents.
With another freshman to highlight, Ashlyn Carnes Dunn is unique in the fact that she didn’t qualify in any individual events at state, but she is an integral part of their top relay squads. At the state championships, Dunn was the second-fastest on the runner-up 200 Yard Medley Relay team, the third-fastest of the championship 200 Yard Freestyle Relay team, and fastest of the 400 Yard Freestyle Relay team. Her specialization is critical to the success of the Panthers relay teams, and Dunn’s contribution reflects her as a team player that is willing to help her team be successful. Sophomore Olivia Still played roles on the two successful relay teams and qualified individually for the 100 Yard Backstroke and 500 Yard Freestyle events, placing sixth and ninth in the events respectively. It was a respectable initial appearance for the Redmond sophomore, who helped the Panthers to obtaining that program-best finish in Beaverton.
In a final honorable mention from the state championships, freshman Lily Bezdek competed individually in the 200 Yard and 500 Yard Freestyle events, finishing 11th and 12th in her first state appearance. She was also a participant on the 400 Yard Freestyle Relay team that took ninth overall in Beaverton, showing glimpses of what Bezdek could be capable of with more hard work and experience. With all of these wonderful athletes in the program, Redmond is on the path to a future full of success, potential, and possible a blue trophy in their future. Keep an eye on the Panthers as a 5A state contender for 2023 and beyond, you’ll be missing out on a classic program building that will be a great sight to witness if you don’t.