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News / Sports / Prep Sports

All-Region girls swimming: Rebecca Yamada, Ridgefield

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: December 1, 2023, 6:05am
2 Photos
Rebecca Yamada of Ridgefield stands on the podium after receiving her medal for winning the 100-yard breaststroke at the Class 2A-1A state girls swimming championship at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way last month.
Rebecca Yamada of Ridgefield stands on the podium after receiving her medal for winning the 100-yard breaststroke at the Class 2A-1A state girls swimming championship at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way last month. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

At the girls swimming state meet last month, Ridgefield junior Rebecca Yamada was taking in her surroundings during her first visit to the King County Aquatic Center.

Suddenly, Yamada found herself very popular.

“It was definitely interesting when I have people, who I didn’t know, knew my name and come up to me,” Yamada said. “I had some coaches come up to me that I didn’t know.”

Everyone at the Class 2A meet wanted to know who this new swimmer was, who was putting up good times.

Yamada made a name for herself by winning the 100-yard breaststroke state title for Class 2A. And that led her to be selected as The Columbian girls swimmer of the year.

Yamada moved with her family to Ridgefield late last summer after growing up in Arizona, which was a big adjustment.

“The biggest change for sure was the change in people,” Yamada said. “The people I knew in high school down there I had gone to school with all the way since sixth grade. So I had a group of friends that we had a lot of history together.”

Also in Arizona, the swim season was for both girls and boys.

At Ridgefield, the girls swim program is still in its budding phase. Last year, Ridgefield sent swimmers to the state meet for the first time. This fall, Yamada was one of six swimmers at Ridgefield, which practiced and competed in a co-op program with schools like Hockinson, Washougal and La Center.

“Coming here and finding out it was just the girls season was a bit of a shock to me,” Yamada said. “And then having a co-op was another big change. We didn’t have co-ops in Arizona. I thought it was a cool and interesting concept, giving small schools the chance to work together. It really just meshed together, and we felt like a whole team and not just five different teams coming together at once.”

There were other changes. In Arizona, Yamada attended Basha High School in Chandler where she competed in the largest classification of schools. In Arizona, most of the meets are held in outdoor pools, while in Washington they are all indoors.

“There was just a different dynamic going from like the highest division to the smaller division, which I found interesting,” Yamada said. “But it was almost like a breath of fresh air coming up here to everyone being more relaxed and just having a good time. They are just focusing on the good part of high school.”

Yamada began building new friendships with her co-op swim team, as well with her club team, the Columbia River Swim Team. And she had another new face on the Ridgefield team, an exchange student from Italy — Federica Catalano.

“I had never met an exchange student before,” Yamada said. “We didn’t have any in Arizona. … The first week, we hung out, me and Federica. We got really close. There were definitely language barriers at first, but we could talk about strokes and stuff. We worked through it together, and it became something really cool and really fun.”

At the state meet, Yamada cut nearly a second off her preliminary time to win the 100 breaststroke in 1 minute, 8.86 seconds, almost three seconds faster than runner-up Hazel Edge of Pullman. She also finished fourth in the 200 individual medley just behind teammate Medea Rusu.

Yamada, Rusu, Catalano and Julia Smith swam Ridgefield to fourth place in the 400 free relay, helping the Spudders place eighth in the team standings.

Yamada is a Running Start student at Clark College with aspirations of studying pre-law in college. And she is looking forward to her senior season swimming for Ridgefield, hoping this past fall was the start of something bigger.

“It was good to see that the program is growing,” Yamada said. “Hopefully it will continue to grow. I hope that all of us making it to state will make everyone at Ridgefield know like ‘hey, we have a swim team, come join.’ I hope it will bring more popularity to it.”

All-Region girls swimming team

McKelvey Brewer, Hudson’s Bay: The senior placed seventh in the 2A 100 butterfly and was a state qualifier in the 500 freestyle.

Paige Dangleis, Hockinson: The junior placed third in the 2A 50 freestyle and fourth in the 2A 100 freestyle.

Haley Gunderson, Heritage: The junior was a state qualifier in the 100 backstroke and placed 13th in the 50 free in the 3A state meet.

Camille McClafferty, Union: The senior placed seventh in the 4A 500 freestyle and 10th in the 100 breaststroke.

Lila McGeachy, Camas: The junior placed fourth in the 4A 500 freestyle and seventh in the 200 freestyle.

Medea Rusu, Ridgefield: The junior placed third in the 2A 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 backstroke.