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Swimming in the shadows

Mail Tribune / Jim Craven

You may not have heard of Ashland's Brad Scoles, but the senior is one of the best swimmers and water polo players in the state

Mail Tribune

ASHLAND - The most dominant prep athlete in Southern Oregon isn't where you think he is.

Don't look to the football field, soccer pitch, basketball court or baseball diamond, because you won't find him.

He's not on the track, wrestling mat or ski slopes either.

With all apologies to Roseburg's Joe Newton, North Medford's Jenny Brown, Crater's Amy Denson and Sarah Pool and the myriad of other Southern Oregon prep stars, the region's best high school athlete is likely an Ashland High School senior named Brad Scoles.

If you haven't heard of him, don't fret - you're not alone.

As a national-caliber water polo player and sensational swimmer, Scoles doesn't cruise the athletics mainstream.

Despite his status as a member of the U.S. national youth B team in water polo and undefeated career record in Southern Oregon Conference swimming, Scoles stars well below the radar.

You might have run across his last name in the headline of a swimming brief or noticed that some Grizzly scored eight goals in a water polo match (as Scoles did to propel Ashland to the Class 4A state championship game).

But as quickly as "Brad Scoles" parted your lips, the name was probably gone again - unless, perhaps, you're one of the few with a particular affinity or direct involvement in water polo or swimming.

Obscureness be damned, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Scoles is an athlete the likes of which rarely comes along.

The No. — seed in the 100-yard freestyle heading into today and Saturday's Class 4A state swim meet at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Scoles never lost in the 100 freestyle during four years of SOC competition.

He is the state's No. 4 seed in the 200 freestyle, which he picked up as a junior and proceeded to win at every SOC turn. As a freshman and sophomore, Scoles was unbeaten in the SOC in the 200 individual medley.

"His technique is good, his work ethic is monstrous and he's very coachable," says sixth-year Ashland coach Neil Foley, who has had only a couple of swimmers on par with Scoles during his 35 years of coaching the sport.

Scoles district-winning time of 46.54 seconds in the 100 freestyle is a stupefying 1.57 seconds faster than the state's second seed.

"I'm pretty excited," Scoles says of his chances for a state title or two or three, as he teams with sophomores Arron Nelson, Dan Garrison and Nathan Jessop to form the Grizzlies' 15th-seeded 200 freestyle relay squad. "But I don't wanna get overconfident."

Foley says Scoles' 100 performance in the district meet - which wasn't supposed to be his fastest, as he wasn't "tapered" (properly rested) like he will be this weekend - was good enough to place in the top three at Division I-A meets.

"And this is his second sport," Foley says. "That's difficult for some to believe."

Amazingly enough, Scoles is even better in water polo, which he started playing as a 10-year-old in Newberg.

Serving as the Grizzlies' whole setter - something akin to a center - Scoles led Ashland all the way to the state-title match during the fall. The Grizzlies suffered a 9-5 loss to Westview in the championship but bettered placings of fifth last year and third two years ago for the school's best-ever finish.

Last May, Scoles traveled to Plantation, Fla., and earned a spot on the U.S. national youth B team. Of the 150 who were selected to the national pool from state and regional tryouts, Scoles was one of 28 chosen and the only Oregonian.

He says his role on the team is a "do-everything" utility, which he served during a summer tournament in Santa Barbara, Calif., and the NORAM Games in Calgary, Canada, in December.

For now, however, water polo is on the back-burner, and swimming is the game at which Scoles is scorching the field.

The impetus that pushed Scoles into the pool was a "hot" club swim coach, whose invitation to join the team he couldn't resist as a 6-year-old in Dublin, Calif.

From that unlikely beginning, Scoles has transformed into a world-beater in both his pool sports, which he hopes to continue competing in collegiately at Long Beach State, Princeton, George Washington, Massachusetts, Pepperdine ... or somewhere.

Even Scoles admits "it's hard to explain" how an athlete of his size and ability got sucked into two largely ignored sports and never was lured to more glorious pursuits, a la the gridiron.

"I like winning, and I like competing," he says with a shrug.

But the manner through which he has progressed to his current stature is no secret.

"I work really hard in here every day," says Scoles, sitting in the office next to the SOU pool following Wednesday's workout. "It's about being committed. It takes a lot of time."

There are no shortcuts to becoming Southern Oregon sports' best prep athlete - and its best-kept secret.

CLASS 4A STATE SWIM MEET QUALIFIERSGirls

200 MEDLEY RELAY - 6, Roseburg (Alyssa Daven, Katherine Thompson, Madison Swinn, Jennifer Saylor), 1:52.91.

200 FREESTYLE - 18, Jamie Erickson, North Medford, 2:05.87.

200 INdivIDUAL MEDLEY - 4, Katherine Thompson, Roseburg, 2:10.05.

50 FREESTYLE - 18, Alyssa Daven, Roseburg, 26.00.

100 BUTTERFLY - 12, Jennifer Saylor, Roseburg, 1:00.74.

100 FREESTYLE - 18, Michelle Smith, Ashland, 57.53.

500 FREESTYLE - 18, Lynea Loeffler, South Medford, 5:29.17.

200 FREESTYLE RELAY - 18, North Medford (Amanda Laporte, Sarah Arant, Erin Kulmac, Jamie Erickson), 1:51.35.

100 BACKSTROKE - 1, Katherine Thompson, Roseburg, 58.29; 5, Jennifer Saylor, Roseburg, 1:00.52.

100 BREASTROKE - 18, Alyssa Daven, Roseburg, 1:11.58.

400 FREESTYLE RELAY - 16, Roseburg (Alyssa Daven, Mary Junkin, Jennifer Saylor, Katherine Thompson), 3:50.53.

Boys

200 MEDLEY RELAY - 3, Roseburg (Eric Swinn, Patrick O'Neil, Mike Lugar, Nels Walther), 1:41.34.

200 FREESTYLE - 4, Brad Scoles, Ashland, 1:46.00; 9, Nick Thompson, Roseburg, 1:47.63.

200 INdivIDUAL MEDLEY - 2, Patrick O'Neil, Roseburg, 1:56.01.

50 FREESTYLE - 2, Eric Swinn, Roseburg, 22.07.

100 BUTTERFLY - 4, Patrick O'Neil, Roseburg, 52.84.

100 FREESTYLE - 1, Brad Scoles, Ashland, 46.54.

500 FREESTYLE - 11, Nick Thompson, Roseburg, 4:56.11.

200 FREESTYLE RELAY - 14, Roseburg (Nels Walther, Nick Thompson, Colin Soder, Brian Jewell), 1:34.82; 15, Ashland (Brad Scoles, Arron Nelson, Dan Garrison, Nathan Jessop), 1:34.89.

100 BACKSTROKE - 1, Eric Swinn, Roseburg, 53.40.

100 BREASTSTROKE - 18, Nick Stevenson, North Medford, 1:07.88.

400 FREESTYLE RELAY - 4, Roseburg (Eric Swinn, Nick Thompson, Patrick O'Neil, Nels Walther), 3:23.29.

CLASS 3A/2A/1A STATE MEET QUALIFIERSGirls

200 FREESTYLE - 10, Nichole Brown, Mazama, 2:13.93.

200 INdivIDUAL MEDLEY - 11, Danielle Walker, Mazama, 2:27.91.

50 FREESTYLE - 1, Lynsey Foree, Hidden Valley, 25.79; 10, Jessica Morrison, Henley, 27.36.

100 FREESTYLE - 3, Lynsey Foree, Hidden Valley, 55.85.

500 FREESTYLE - 10, Nichole Brown, Mazama, 6:03.66.

100 BACKSTROKE - 12, Maggie Morefield, Phoenix, 1:08.79.

100 BREASTSTROKE - 5, Jessica Morrison, Henley, 1:13.22; 8, Hailey Mahoney, North Valley, 1:15.35.

400 FREESTYLE RELAY - 12, Mazama (Nichole Brown, Kayla Tyree, Jasmine Kleuder, Danielle Walker), 4:15.59.

Boys

200 MEDLEY RELAY - 10, Henley (Zach Zimmer, Jonny Oelkers, Tom North, Tyler Garrett), 1:54.67; 12, Phoenix (Jeff Stone, Gordon Barker, KC Cloyd, Dino Rossi), 1:56.54.

200 FREESTYLE - 2, Mark Pepitone, Hidden Valley, 1:51.79; 3, Chris Ritter, Mazama, 1:52.51; 7, Justin Heath, Phoenix, 1:57.18; 10, Patrick Gentry, North Valley, 1:59.99.

200 INdivIDUAL MEDLEY - 7, Tom North, Henley, 2:21.03; 8, KC Cloyd, Phoenix, 2:21.11.

100 BUTTERFLY - 3, Chris Ritter, Mazama, 50.91; 10, Justin Scott, North Valley, 52.36. 500 FREESTYLE - 7, Justin Heath, Phoenix, 5:27.77; 8, Patrick Gentry, North Valley, 5:34.57; 10, Jonny Oelkers, Henley, 5:38.83.

200 FREESTYLE RELAY - 1, North Valley (Kevin McCullough, Justin Scott, Patrick Gentry, Colin Beard), 1:35.43; 8, Phoenix (Justin Heath, Dino Rossi, Jacob Nelson, Anthony rd), 1:38.89; 9, Hidden Valley (David Lavenbarg, Jason Murrell, David Ross, Mark Pepitone), 1:39.13; 10, Henley (Tom North, Jake Kenealy, James Culp, Tyler Garrett), 1:40.92.

100 BACKSTROKE - 6, Jeff Stone, Phoenix, 1:02.93; 10, Zach Zimmer, Henley, 1:05.14.

100 BREASTSTROKE - 5, Justin Scott, North Valley, 1:07.03.

400 FREESTYLE RELAY - 4, North Valley (Kevin McCullough, Colin Beard, Patrick Gentry, Justin Scott), 3:34.83; 8, Phoenix (Anthony rd, Justin Heath, Jacob Nelson, KC Cloyd), 3:43.37; 9, Hidden Valley (David Lavenbarg, Jason Murrell, David Ross, Mark Pepitone), 3:43.80.

Reach reporter Tim Pyle at 776-4483 or e-mail

Swimming in the shadows