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July 29, 2021

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All-Region Boys Swimming: Ilia Zablotovskii, Evergreen

Evergreen senior does his talking in the pool

By , Columbian Sports Editor
2 Photos
Evergreen sophomore Ilia Zablotoviskii is pictured at Propstra Athletic Center on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 18, 2018.
Evergreen sophomore Ilia Zablotoviskii is pictured at Propstra Athletic Center on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 18, 2018. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

For his final year of high school swimming, Ilia Zablotovskii wanted to make a different type of splash.

Ever since he began competitive swimming in his native Russia at age 6, the Evergreen senior tended to focus on the longer events.

“At the start of the year, he came to me and said ‘coach, I just want to do sprints,’ ” said Doug Lumbard, who coaches swimmers at multiple high schools in the Evergreen district. “He really started training for the 50 and 100 free.”

By the season’s end, Zablotovskii was up to speed in what Lumbard called one of the fastest state meets, top to bottom, he has ever seen.

Zablotovskii placed second in the 100 freestyle in 46.08 seconds, behind only the 3A meet record time of 44.99 set by Bainbridge’s Jude Wenker. Zablotovskii placed fourth in the 50 free despite a bad turn in a race that has no margin for error.

And he did all that while recovering from a severe cold that had sapped his energy.

Now Zablotovskii, who is considering swimming at Whitworth University in Spokane, has four state finishes of fourth place or better. Last year, he placed fourth in both the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

For his accomplishments, Zablotovskii is The Columbian’s All-Region boys swimmer of the year.

Soft-spoken, modest and unassuming, Zablotovskii opted not to be interviewed for this story. But Lumbard was happy to sing his swimmer’s praises.

“Right off, I saw he had a wonderful feel for the water,” Lumbard said. “His swimming has really evolved. He’s improved every year.”

Zablotovskii, his parents and two sisters moved to the United States in April 2017 from the Republic of Bashkortostan, near Russia’s southern border with Kazakhstan.

It was a move necessitated by the health of his 14-year old sister, Angelina, who has undergone several surgeries at Oregon Health and Sciences University to repair heart defects.

Suddenly, Ilia was found himself in a foreign country, learning a new language and adjusting to a new school. He found comfort in what had always been familiar, the swimming pool.

“He lets his swimming speak for him,” former Evergreen coach Mark McBride told The Columbian in 2018. “He works hard and pushes the other boys. They have fun together. Even with the language barrier, he understands more about swimming.”

Zablotovskii now feels part of the community at Evergreen High. He and his family also have their faith community at the Ukrainian Baptist Church, where his father Ivan Zablotovskii is a pastoral assistant.

Zablotovskii also has his swimming community. Though he was Evergreen’s only swimmer at the state meet, he has bonded quickly with swimmers from Mountain View, Heritage and Union who train together under Lumbard.

“That camaraderie has really helped him,” Lumbard said.

The Rest of the All-Region Team

Tony Kajino, Union, Seventh in state in the 100 backstroke and was part of Union’s 10th place 200 medley relay.

Jaden Kim, Camas, Runner-up in the 100 butterfly at 4A state meet. Also part of fifth-place 200 medley relay.

Christian Madden, Mountain View, Fifth in state in the 500 freestyle and sixth in the 200 freestyle.

Liam Noftsker, Columbia River, Third in the 100 backstroke and fourth in the 100 freestyle at 2A state. Also on two fifth-place relays.

David Peddie, Camas, Fifth in state in the 500 freestyle and 11th in the 200 free. Also was on 8th-place 400 free relay.

Val Tikhomirov, Union, Eighth in state in the 100 breaststroke. Also on Union’s 10th-place 200 medley relay.