VANCOUVER, WA — Columbia River Swim Team’s (CRST) Sammy Empey, 12, loves to swim, even if he has to be at the pool before dawn for a 5:30 am practice.

“I tell him it’s OK to skip some of those early morning practices,” says his mom, Camille, “but, he’s always up on his own ready to be driven to the pool. He has a solid work ethic, and absolutely loves to swim. He’s very driven.”

Empey’s passion for the sport of swimming is resulting in some stellar swim times. The ever-focused, bright and happy, Empey, turned heads this year with not one, but four top 10 nationally ranked USA Swimming times for his age group. He’s No. 2 in the nation for the 100 meter Freestyle, or 100m Free as swimmers call it, with a time of 1:00.35.

He also nationally ranks No. 6 in the 50m Fly (29.94), No. 6 in the 100m Fly (1:06.65), and No. 7 in 50m Free (27.88).

“He’s very focused at every practice,” said his coach, Darlene Hill. “He listens, has fun, and encourages others to improve. He’s a delight to have on the team.”

For him, the sport is fun, but he also has some lofty goals.

“What drives me right now is the State records,” said Sammy. “Those are really hard because I’m young, but I still try by going to practice everyday. I love that my teammates help me everyday. I hate to practice when there are no people there, when there’s no one to push me. They keep me on my feet and push me to get to the next level.”

Hill said the team rallies around each athlete to help them get to where they want to be.

“There’s a real support system here,” said Hill. “And, if a swimmer wants to reach a certain goal, we help them achieve it.”


Sammy dives in for the 100 Free event at the Salem Open.

Empey Boys Breaking Records

“When he first started swimming a few years ago,” said Camille. “He saw the individual records on the wall, and told me he would break all of them. He’s starting to do that now.”

His younger brother, Steven, is just as driven, and likes to compete with Sammy. 

The Empey brothers broke team records at the Salem Open, in November.  Steven broke the 50 Back (33.91) and Sammy broke the 50 Free (24.32), 50 Fly (27.02) and 100 Back (1:01.45) records.  Sammy also set four team records at the same meet.  

Sammy went 2:10.60 in the 200 IM, 53.18 in the 100 Free, 1:01.89 in the 100 Back, and 27.98 in the 50 Back.

“My coaches help with the swimming techniques,” said Sammy. “But they also help us just be good people.”

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Mt. Hood Community College — Sixty-four members of the Columbia River Swim Team (CRST) swam into the night Saturday at the Summer Blast #2 meet, in which five clubs competed in 17 events. It’s all part of a strategic effort to prepare for the Long Course championships in late July.

“The kids try to hit state qualify times at these events,” said CRST Head Coach, Darlene Hill. “We’re one of a few club teams that does this over the summer, which is why you see so many age groups.”

CRST athletes swam alongside Chehalem, Portland Athletic Club, Canby, and Forest Grove swim clubs in mixed gender races that provide excellent training for the youth.


CRST Swimmer Ashley Lin.

This was the second of three Summer Blast events that help the young swimmers prepare for other competitions, such as the Long Course, and the Future Nationals in August. Hill said the kids each compete in three events.

“We’re in summer training now,” said senior Max Dolbinin. “We practice two hours in the morning, and two hours in the afternoon so we can be ready for the Long Course championships. I think we eat 6,000-8,000 calories just to fuel up.”

Dolbinin has swam competitively for many years for Vancouver-based CRST, and enjoys the challenges the sport brings. He also swam for Heritage High School for four years, with good success.

“Even if you let up for a few days, it can affect your performance,” he said. “When we go to Hawaii for 10 days, and come back it’s hard to get back to where you were.”


Max Dolbinin competes in the 50 Free.

Andrew Chang Interview

Union High School Senior Andrew Chang has enjoyed his many years at the club, and considers fellow swimmers some of his best friends.  He says they’re really like a family.

“Today wasn’t a bad swim,” Chang said. “It was my first Individual Medley (IM) of the season.”

CRST Successes

CRST continues to build on a string of successes in 2017, and in years past, that sees many swimmers go on to compete at the collegiate level. CRST alumnus Andrea Young was recently named Oregon State University 2017 Swimmer of the Year.

The meet started at 5:45 pm, and lasted until 10 pm. Swimmers competed in the following events:

  • Mixed 50 Backstroke
  • Mixed 100 Free
  • Mixed 50 Free
  • Mixed 100 Breaststroke
  • Mixed 200 IM
  • Mixed 50 Free
  • Mixed 100 Backstroke
  • Mixed 50 Breaststroke
  • Mixed 100 Butterfly
  • Mixed 200 Freestyle
  • Mixed 200 Backstroke
  • Mixed 200 Breaststroke
  • Mixed 400 Freestyle
  • Mixed 200 Butterfly
  • Mixed 400 IM
  • Mixed 800 Freestyle
  • Mixed 1500 Freestyle

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CRST Photo Gallery

Federal Way, WA — Top local swimmer Kasey Calwell has qualified and will attend the Speedo Junior National Championships to be held this week (Dec. 10-13) at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington.

Top high school aged and future collegiate swim talent from all over the country will attend this once a year meet and compete at the highest level. Calwell will be competing in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and the 200 and 400 Individual Medley.
“I’m really excited and a bit nervous about the whole thing,” said Calwell. “These guys swim crazy fast! We’ll see how it goes.”
Kasey Calwell (left), with fellow teammates, Jonah Rodewald, Lucas Ulmer
and Chris Xue at the King County Aquatic Center. Photo by Max Dolbinin.


Calwell is an 18-year-old Senior from Camas and swims for both the Camas High School team and Columbia River Swim Team in Vancouver. He is the only male Clark County swimmer to qualify. Calwell has had a successful swimming career. He moved to Camas prior to his Freshman year. Before that, he lived in Ohio.
Cassidy Brennan of Camas, who swims with Tualatin Hills in Oregon will also be in attendance. Calwell has verbally committed to the University of California-Santa Barbara to swim next fall.

Several members of the Columbia River Swim Team (CRST) are competing in the 2013 Speedo Western Zone Champions, or commonly called “Senior Sectionals” at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

The event lasts four days and includes high-level swimmers from 12 states, according to Doug Lombard, co-founder of CRST. The swimmers included high school and college stars, as well as former Olympians.

“You have to be proficient and fast to even get there,” said Lombard.

The event is considered one step below Nationals and several of the swimmers are currently trying to attain Junior National and Olympic trials cuts.

Kasey Calwell (shown in this photo), who attends King’s Way and also swims for Camas High School, is competing in multiple events, alongside several of this teammates, including: Eric Bugna, Chris Xue, Alex Suk, Julia Sanders, Darya Samlee, Anna Pannebianco, and Andrea Young.

Calwell swam the 200 Breast and 100 Free today, and will compete in the 400 IM on Thursday, and the 100 Back and 100 Breast on Saturday. On Sunday, he competes in the 200 IM.

“So far today was great,” said Calwell. “I dropped three seconds in the 200 Breast and a tad in the Free. This is a crazy fast meet.”


Kasey Calwell
CRST swimmer Kasey Calwell competes at Senior Sectionals this week
at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, WA.


The Columbia River Swim Team (CRST) recently participated in the 2012 Speedo Western Zone Champions, or commonly called “Senior Sectionals” at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

The event lasted four days and included high-level swimmers from 12 states, according to Doug Lombard, co-founder of CRST. The swimmers included high school and college stars, as well as former Olympians.

“You have to be proficient and fast to even get there,” said Lombard. “Nine kids from our local swim club went and 90 percent of them got best times, setting personal records.”

The event is considered one step below Olympic trials and several of the swimmers are currently trying to attain Junior National and Olympic trials cuts.

CRST sent the following swimmers to Senior Sectionals: Eric Bugna, Kasey Calwell, Jaron Hamlik, Jim Nguyen, Darya Samlee, Julia Sanders, Alex Suk, Felicia Williamson, and Andrea Young.

The swimmers competed in multiple events, and most got best times. Three, however, placed top 15 in their respective events. This is a major achievement considering the competition.

Jaron Hamlik placed 15th in the Boys 200 meter Individual Medley (IM); and Julia Sanders placed 14th in the Girls 50 meter Freestyle and 15th in the Girls 200 IM.

Jaron Hamlik
Jaron Hamlik looks forward to competing at
upcoming Santa Clara Invitational. He placed 15th in the
Boys 200 IM at Federal Way.
 “This was not my first time competing on a sectional level, I’ve competed in senior sectionals every season for about two or three years now,” said Sanders. “I’ve also competed in Junior Nationals several times and swam the 100 butterfly at Senior Nationals when they were here in Federal Way. Competing at high level meets is very exciting, they have a completely different feel than age-group level meets. It’s a lot of fun and really motivating to travel as a team and compete with some of the fastest swimmers in the Nation.”

Sanders has two main goals for the next few years in her swimming career. The first is to make an Olympic trials cut, and the second is to swim at a division one college after she graduates in 2013.

Hamlik continues to impress those around him, but maintains modesty and said he “felt pretty good” and continues to think about getting ready for the next season.

Kasey Calwell, who competed with Camas High School this past season, felt good about his performance at Senior Sectionals. He dropped times in several of his races.

“It was so much different than the high school state meet because first of all, kids from 12 states competed in this meet,” said Calwell. “With high school states, it was just Washington. So that adds a very different element to it. And this is the first meet that you really see Olympic-bound kids such as Missy Franklin, who’s got a world record in the 200 Back and swims for the Colorado Stars in Denver. It is so much more competitive, so it really motivates you to see if you can move up in the coming years. You see what the Olympic people go, and you say to yourself, ‘How can I get there?’ So that’s my mindset coming out of it.”

Two weeks prior to the Senior Sectionals, CRST placed second at the Oregon Senior Championships for swimmers 13 and older. The nine swimmers that made it to the Senior Sectionals in Federal Way achieved specific time standards at the Oregon event or at some point during the season. Those time achievements made it possible for them to go to Senior Sectionals.

Lombard said Hamlik and Sanders are aggressively working toward achieving qualifying Olympic Trials times, and “that is a big deal.”

“Olympic trials are very difficult to meet,” said Lombard. “It’s like making the NCAA tournament and only the top two in each Olympic trial event go onto the Olympics. The Olympic swim team consists of 34 swimmers.”

The team’s next meet is the Santa Clara International Meet at the end of May. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has frequented the event in year’s past.

Hamlik expects to compete in the 100 Back and 200 IM at the very least. “Those are the only ones I think I’m qualified in right now.”


Nine swimmers from the Columbia River Swim Team qualified for Senior Sectionals at the 2012 Western Zone Speedo Championship Series happening now through March 11 at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, WA.

Kasey Calwell, 15, and Jaron Hamlik, 16, who practice with the Camas High School Boy’s Swim Team, competed in separate events today. Calwell, who is new to the team, competed in the 200 Long Course Meter Breaststroke this morning and finished with a time of 2:34.2, dropping two seconds off his time. Hamlik competed in the 200 Long Course Meter Backstroke and finished with a time of 2:19.66 earning him a spot in finals tonight. The team also competed in the 800 Freestyle Relay, but results are not yet available.

Columbia River Swim Team prepares for events on Wednesday, March 8
at the King County Aquatic Center. From left to right: Jaron Hamlik,
Eric Bugna, Kasey Calwell, Jim Nguyen, Andrea Young,
Coach Darlene Hill, Julia Sanders, Alex Suk.
Photo by Sandy Calwell.