As state champion swimmer and 2017 Camas graduate, Tom Utas, embarks on his college career at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, we look back at his high school swimming career, how it took shape, and what it did for his character and those around him.
Last February, Utas won first place in the State 4A 50 Free Swim event (21.07), and was a leader for his Camas swim team that took first place at State — the first time in Camas history. At that same State meet, he added another team record placing third in the 100 Free (46.74). It was a moment he and his team will never forget, and one they spent years preparing.
Leading up to that are multiple District Championship titles, dozens of personal placements, and more recently, Utas reset two Columbia River Swim Team (CRST) team records at the OSI Arena Championships this past summer. Tom went 24.15 in the 50 Free and 53.34 in the 100 Free. He also swam in the Finals at Future Nationals in August, which shows colleges that a swimmer is up for anything.
“I think swimming taught me to be part of something that allowed me to be a better version of myself,” said Utas. “Competitions pushing my limit to achieve goals I never thought possible, and being part of a team of swimmers and a coaching staff that provides you with the connections to build friendships and trust among peers through training and teamwork. I’m grateful for the opportunities that the sport and my team has given me, and the lesson and work ethic it gave me is what inspires me to continue to swim today, and remember the positive memories the sport gave me.”
Utas, along with his older brother, John, spent four years swimming for Camas, bringing home a large cache of medals and personal, as well as team achievements. He also swam for 10 years with CRST, and was coached by Darlene Hill, and Mike Bemis.
“He’s always ready to race, he has a racing mentality,” said teammate, Max Dolbinin, a 2017 Heritage High graduate. “Especially on the relays, if we need a certain time out of him, we always now he will execute it. Racing against him is always fun because we always push each other to our limits.”
Utas speaks fondly of his coaches and teammates through the years.
“They always pushed me to excel, and were supportive at every practice, and at every race,” said Utas. “What I’ve enjoyed the most are the friendships with my teammates and coaches.”
The feeling is mutual.
Hill sat down and talked about the history with Utas, and what he’s meant to their team.
“Tom and his brother, John, had been swimming at another club, which had changed their coaching management,” said Hill. “Things didn’t work out there, and so after working with them here, we learned pretty quickly they’re sprinters. Specifically, they’re drop dead sprinters, and can really only do condensed, specific practice sessions. We knew quickly how to work on what they needed to be successful. A true drop dead swimmer can’t do longer events repeatedly.”
Hill said they trained Tom was trained on technique and high focus skills for racing. Those high focus skills include racing off the block, and building up core energy. He focused on these skills at every practice, and it paid off.
“He’d get his center of balance and hold that for a long period of time,” said Hill. “He have me watch and we’d work on that together. You get faster when you focus.”
She said Tom lead the team on how to be a natural swimmer, and because of his achievements, he’s helped make the CRST swim program grow.
“Tom helped carry this,” said Hill. “He’s given so much to the sport, and has encouraged so many other swimmers to excel.”
“He’s been a great competitor for Camas,” said Bemis, who coached him as he presented Camas High School for four years. “He’s been a great leader.”
Utas said he loves the sport, and that being part of such a great program has made him a better person overall.
“I am so grateful for all these experiences,” said Utas. “It’s all been great.”
A Bright Future for Utas
Utas has just started to swim at the collegiate level for the University of Lethbridge while studying Biochemistry. He’s looking forward to swimming at a higher level, while studying for a promising career.
“He’ll do well at whatever he tries,” said Hill. “We will miss Tom. He’s been a big part of our club.”
To learn more, visit crstwaveriders.org