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News / Sports / Prep Sports

All-Region boys swimming: Tarik Kurta, Fort Vancouver

Senior helped build Trappers program, earned top 3 finishes at state meet

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: March 14, 2024, 6:01am
6 Photos
Tarik Kurta of Fort Vancouver stands on the podium after finishing second in the 50 freestyle at the 2A boys swimming state championship meet at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.
Tarik Kurta of Fort Vancouver stands on the podium after finishing second in the 50 freestyle at the 2A boys swimming state championship meet at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Tarik Kurta has some advice for any middle schooler thinking about giving swimming a try in high school, whether that’s at Fort Vancouver or any other school.

“I would say just give it a shot,” Kurta said. “Some people who have started swimming in their freshman year have made it to state by their senior year. But at least try it because you’re going to have fun. It’s fun. And if you put in a little bit of effort, then eventually it will come to you, and you know you’ll be good by your senior year.”

Kurta not only knows what he’s talking about, he’s a living example of that.

Kurta had never been involved in competitive swimming before his freshman year at Fort Vancouver.

But last month at the Class 2A state swimming championships, the senior placed second in the 50-yard freestyle and third in the 100 freestyle, earning Kurta the honor of The Columbian’s All-Region boys swimmer of the year.

And it all began three years ago, when Kurta was looking for an activity to do in high school as in-person learning was returning during the pandemic.

Having done basketball and wrestling in his pre-high schools, Kurta chose to go out for swimming to do something different.

“I thought I was going to do swimming freshman year, then wrestling my sophomore year and then maybe basketball my junior year,” Kurta said. “And then I would decide which one I liked best and do that for senior year. But I turned out to be really good at swimming. So I just kept at it for all four years.”

Sarah Dunn, the coach for the swim teams at Fort Vancouver and Hudson’s Bay, was glad Kurta made that decision.

In that abbreviated freshman year for Kurta, Fort Vancouver had only three boys swimmers. This past season, the Trappers had 20 swimmers in the boys program.

“His influence has been really fundamental,” Dunn said. “A lot of the swimmers look up to him. He’s brought a lot of guys onto the team. It’s been a great four years that I’ve been able to coach him. … He’s helped grow the team immensely. It’s one of the more popular teams at Fort.”

Kurta was the lone Fort swimmer to advance to the state meet his sophomore season.

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He reached the championship finals of the 50 free, but was disqualified for a false start. He was so frustrated by that mistake that he chose not to compete in the consolation final of the 100 free.

“It was a learning experience for me,” Kurta said. “I think it helped deal with frustration better. But also, when I went back to state my junior year, I made sure that I did not false start. Once they tell you to set, you’ve got a hold. I got disqualified for just adjusting my foot a little. So my mindset my junior year was to not move a muscle until the gun went off.”

Once the gun sounded, Kurta raced to a pair of top-five finishes in the 50 free and 100 free.

Then this season, Kurta placed even higher and went even faster, not to anyone’s surprise.

But one thing that did surprise Kurta’s competitors at state was when they asked him what club he swam for.

“I don’t swim for a club,” Kurta said. “That surprised a lot of people at state, because most of the top swimmers also swim club. But I just swim for Fort.”

During the season, Kurta would practice with the Fort team, then often remain at the Propstra Aquatic Center and take advantage of open swim times to get in more practice.

“I think every time I got in the pool, I tried to make the most of that time and work as hard as I could,” Kurta said. “I think that helped keep me fresh.”

He also enjoys attending and representing Fort Vancouver.

“I feel like Fort is degraded as a school by a lot of people,” he said. “But I love Fort. I think it’s a great school. And it feels really nice to be good at something for a school that other people look down on. I like going up against swimmers from ‘nicer schools’ and beating them. Having them say ‘oh, he’s from Fort,’ but then going out and beating them, it feels nice.”

And even after Kurta graduates, he’ll leave a lasting impact on Fort swimming. Several of his teammates, including three members of the Trappers’ 400 free relay, will return to the program next year with state-meet experience under their belts in part because of the contributions of Kurta.

“It’s definitely a nice thing to represent a school like this in this way,” Kurta said. “It feels good. It makes me proud, and I know it makes my parents proud, and I’m sure the school as well.”

All-Region boys swimming team

Swimmer of the year: Tarik Kurta, sr., Fort Vancouver

Rest of All-Region team

James Crawford, Camas: The junior placed 13th in the 4A state meet in the 200 individual medley and 13th in the 500 freestyle.

Vladyslav Danylyuk, Prairie: The junior placed 11th in the 3A state meet in the 100 backstroke and 15th in the 100 freestyle.

Cedric Huang, Skyview: The junior placed 12th in the 4A state meet in the 100 butterfly, bi-district runner-up.

Sahn Kim, Camas: The senior placed 13th in the 4A state meet in the 50 freestyle and swam on two state-bound relays.

Owen Robertson, Union: The junior placed second in the 4A state meet in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 500 freestyle.

Lincoln Swift, Ridgefield: The sophomore placed fourth in the 2A state meet in the 500 freestyle and 16th in the 200 individual medley.