Matthew Quebedeaux, a sophomore at North Thurston High School, strives to make varsity for next season. Matthew has been swimming since the beginning of freshman year when his older brother, Andrew, pushed him into joining. Andrew, a senior at the time, wanted to share the sport with his younger brother.
“He had a great race against Timberline. He was in last place going into the mid-turn and then beating all three of the Timberline boys and getting third place. Seeing how he reacted to that and that it was his best time by over a second, to me that’s been a real joy,” head coach Jak Ayres emphasizes. “Matthew has come a long, long way, barely being to swim his freshman year to now – he might even be going to districts this year.”
Coach Jak Ayres began coaching in 1969 for the boy’s swim team and established the girl’s swim team the same year. After six years of coaching, Ayres took a 30 year break to travel around the world, and came back ten years ago to continue coaching at North Thurston.
The North Thurston boys swim team finished the season undefeated, continuing their record from last year. In the past, they’ve had a record of five seasons undefeated. The team’s total record is 131 wins to 22 losses.
“We are on the guys every single day to improve their strokes and to push themselves to the next level, and I think that’s why we’re so successful,” states Ayres.
The swim team is based on improvement. At the beginning of Ayres’ coaching career in the 60s and 70s he would give an award called the shark tooth’s award to the swimmer with the biggest improvement throughout the season. The award has changed and is now called the “You Rock” award, but is still given to the most improved swimmer. “It doesn’t necessarily go to the best swimmer or a varsity swimmer. It goes to the person that’s dropped the most time and I think that helps every single person on the team improve and we hope to see them improve continually,” Ayres says.
Another award, the “Ducky Award”, is a perpetual award that started in 1984, passed on to the most promising freshman at the end of every season, voted on by the whole team. Quebedeaux was the recipient last year. “Every freshman who wins the award writes their name down on it and when there’s no room, you have to add another plate. Last year I had the privilege of adding a new plate,” eplains Quebedeaux.
The members of the team all agree they’re more like a family than anything. “The team is really friendly,” says Quebedeaux. “The connection you have with other teammates you don’t have with your other friends.”
“We do a lot of things together even outside of swim and we all care about each other,” adds teammate Justin Ridgeway. Ridgeway is currently one of the three team captains, the other two captains being Jeffrey Harn and Austin Couey. “I like how connected all of us are, and how we all treat each other with the same amount of respect we’d all wanted to be treated with,” Ridgeway continues.
Ridgeway, a senior, has been swimming for the past 13 years. “When I was younger, I wanted to do something that would take up time because I had nothing to do and when my brother started swimming, I just decided that I wanted to try it,” he explains. “Swim has just got me through a lot of things, both mentally and physically, and has helped me change my perspective on life.”
Quebedeaux has great dedication and passion for the sport of swim. “One thing that stands out to me is being tired after a practice. It’s like the satisfaction you get when you work really hard. There are people who just try to survive, and then there’s the people who actually work for themselves. It’s the satisfaction you get when you work really hard during practice.”
North Thurston heads to post-season competition February 2 and 3 at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma.