It was one of the few poolside areas that could actually fit the entire River Ridge High School swim and dive team.
The Hawks had just completed their final regular season home meet and senior Christian Provost has gathered the large group together for one final team cheer.
“I’ve been with this team for so long it’s a lot to deal with emotionally,” Provost said afterwards. “It’s sad that it’s ending, but it’s also beautiful in a different kind of way.”
The cheer, however, doesn’t take place instantaneously. The squad has to wait until everyone is present and in position. The squad is 20-plus strong this year. A far cry from when Provost began his high school swimming career.
“At the end of my freshman year,” Provost remembered, “we probably had 6 or 7 guys left on the team.”
Times have certainly changed and Provost and teammate Cato Cannizzo, the Hawks’ other senior captain, have played enormous roles in accomplishing just that.
“We told Christian when he got here that it was going to be tough the first two years,” assistant coach Nic Emory said, “but if he were to stick with it with his ability and his leadership skills, kids will want to follow him and we can turn things around, and that’s happened.”
From half a dozen to potentially peaking at 30 swimmers next year, the Hawks have transformed their once fleeting program into a success story all through the tireless work of Provost and his teammates.
“I think it used to be when other teams saw us on the sheet they didn’t give us much thought,” Provost said. “Now when they see us on the schedule they know what we can do. There’s some pride in making others feel a little uncomfortable about having to compete against us now.”
Emory anticipates the Hawks posting school-record highs in overall team points at both the district and state meet with Provost leading the charge.
For the second consecutive year, Provost has qualified for state in the 50 and 100 freestyle. He remarkably did the former during River Ridge’s first meet of the season all the way back on November 30 and has only improved since then.
But that could be applied to the entire Hawks’ roster as they completed the regular season with an 11-2-1 record, including an 8-2-1 mark in the 2A South Puget Sound League.
“If you told me we would (have that record) during my senior year I would have believed it,” Provost said. “I wouldn’t necessarily have signed a contract on it, but I would have believed it.”
As a freshman, Provost was a member of a River Ridge team which failed to generate much success in terms of wins and losses as they chalked up a number of forfeits due to failing to have enough swimmers to compete.
And while it’s nice they were able to turn the record around, it was simply not the driving force for Provost over the last four seasons.
“Wins and loses didn’t really matter to me when I came into this program,” Provost said. “Growing as a swimmer and growing as a person, that’s what was really important to me. This program has really shaped who I am as a person. I wouldn’t be me without this program.”
Provost first started swimming when he was 8 years old after he was asked to pick a sport. His decision to swim was a relatively easy one.
“I was an epileptic,” Provost said. “I couldn’t play football. The doctors said I couldn’t participate in any contact sports.”
That left few options, but, as it turned out, swimming would be the perfect choice.
“My freshman year I didn’t have epilepsy anymore and I was cleared to play contact sports so I did football basically because I was told for so long that I couldn’t do that,” Provost said. “I got that out of my system, but (swimming) is where I’ve always belonged. This is the place I am most comfortable.”
Provost and the Hawks head to the 2A SPSL championships on February 7 before heading to the West Central District meet February 13-14. Then it’s onto state where Provost has set his sights on placing in the top 5 in both the 50 and 100.
Should he do that, Provost will join former River Ridge standout Ian Davis as the only Hawk swimmer to pick up multiple top 5 finishes. Davis accomplished the feat in 2003, finishing fifth in both the 50 and 100 freestyle at state.
“That’s where I’d like to finish,” Provost said about his goal. “If this can end with me standing on that podium at state it would be an experience that nothing else could trump.”
Provost finished 10th in the 50 at state as a junior and 11th in the 100.
“He was definitely gifted coming into the program, but he’s put in a lot of hard work each year to improve,” Emory said. “He’s been our team captain the last three years, which is rare for someone to do in this sport. If he sees a teammate struggling with something he’s the first to offer to help. He’ll do anything that helps the program. He’s really been amazing for us.”