With their only chance to make a last impression, Bend’s three high schools want to make a lasting impact.

Bend High, Mountain View and Summit are all expected to jump to Class 6A beginning next school year, and they have one last run at the 5A boys and girls swimming state championships this weekend in Gresham.

The schools’ planned departure from 5A is surely cause for celebration among the rest of the classification, considering how Bend, Mountain View and Summit have dominated swimming in recent years. The current foes, though, will have to cope with one last championship meet with the current cast, this Friday and Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College, where the Bend schools undoubtedly will demonstrate their pool prowess one final time for their rivals in Class 5A. The Lava Bears, Cougars and Storm will also be looking to provide a warning to the state’s largest classification:

They’re coming for 6A.

Since Oregon’s Class 5A was shaped into the current five-district layout three years ago, Bend, Mountain View and Summit swim teams have produced 42 boys and girls individual and relay state champs — 30 more than the second-most-decorated 5A district, the Mid-Willamette Conference. Bend’s power trio has boasted 172 top-six placers (state-meet finalists); the MWC has the next-most at 75.

To boot, at any classification, no conference has combined for more winners than the three Bend high schools during the same time frame, and only one league has more top-six placers. The 6A Metro League, which includes perennial powers Jesuit and Sunset, has combined for 37 individual and relay champions and 179 top-six finishers.

“(Class) 6A is going to be awesome,” says Summit sophomore Ani Husaby, the top seed in the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke heading into state this week. “We’re going to have a lot more competition. But I love 5A. This is the best competition you have in 5A, in this district (the Intermountain Conference).”

Success has become commonplace for swim teams representing Bend schools, which not only have had a numbers advantage by being among the largest in 5A in terms of enrollment but also have benefited from strong local club programs. Since 2001, 12 of the 17 5A state champs have hailed from this city, including five times in the past six years. During the same span, Bend, Mountain View and Summit have combined for seven girls state titles, including all of the past six championships: four by Summit, two by Bend High. Four of the past five girls runners-up have been Bend schools, and Mountain View has taken third each of the past three years.

Now, as the championship triple threat prepares for its final ride in 5A, the Lava Bears, Cougars and Storm have their sights set on another weekend of state dominance to catapult them into 6A.

“That would feel really good,” says Mountain View junior Griffin McKean, the top seed in the boys 200 free and No. 4 in the 100 breaststroke this weekend. “It would give us enough confidence to maybe even place in the (6A) state championship next year.”

Seniors certainly want to end their high school careers with championship glory while sending their younger teammates into the 6A world with momentum.

For Bend High, the defending girls state champ, senior Emily Brockman looks to capture a third straight breaststroke title and a second consecutive 200 individual medley championship. She leads a stacked Lava Bears team, featuring a 5A-high 21 individual entries, that includes up-and-comers Maria Wold and Holly Hermanson, two sophomores who are seeded high in both the IM and the backstroke.

“It’s not going to be an easy transition,” laughs Brockman, referring to the jump to 6A. “But definitely that strength of the underclassmen are really going to carry the team in a transition to 6A. The fact that we have such a strong group of underclassmen prepares us best for that transition.”

Led by Husaby, Summit aims to reclaim the state title with 13 individual entries, the third-most in 5A. Isabelle Young will compete in the butterfly and the breaststroke for the Storm, while Lily Chrisman (200 free, 500 free) and Madeline Coleman (50 free, 100 free) are both expected to participate in two events. Looking for yet another high finish at state, Mountain View boasts Emma Brady as the top seed in the 200 free and the No. 2 seed in the 100 free. The Cougars’ Zoe Andrews will participate in the 500 freestyle, and Marli von Heideken and Marie Allen provide the Cougs with two entries in the backstroke.

“Finishing a season high is always promising,” says Bend coach Tamas Bessenyei, “and it’s always nice going into the next season what you achieved and where you came from.”

That is the kind of momentum the Bend boys look to build this week in Gresham with a classification-best 13 individual entrants, two of whom are seeded high in their respective events. Senior Kurt Felder is No. 2 in both the IM and the butterfly, and Alexander Moore is the No. 2 seed in the 200 free and the fifth seed in the backstroke. For Felder, like Brockman, going out on top is the ultimate goal as a senior. In doing so, Bend’s underclassmen would begin their 6A careers with a running start.

“I think it gives confidence to the rest of the swimmers,” Felder says, “so that when we get to 6A, we can do it, and we can pull through and achieve success.”

The state runner-up last year, Mountain View features McKean, the defending breaststroke champion, as well as Christopher Davami, the No. 2 seed in the 500 free and No. 3 in the IM, and Greg Kansky, who will compete in the breaststroke a year after placing fourth in the event at state. Summit takes aim at a fifth title since 2012 with Logan Todd, the No. 3 seed in the 200 free who is also slated to compete in the 50 free. Also for the Storm, Zachary Bailey (IM, butterfly) and Hunter Craft (butterfly, backstroke) are expected to compete in two events apiece at state.

This past weekend, Bend High ended its 5A district run with a girls and boys team sweep at the IMC championships at Juniper Swim & Fitness Center. Summit placed second, followed by Mountain View. Those programs will surely push each other at state this weekend, and again in 6A next year.

“It’s good to have the competition along,” Bessenyei says. “What you see is these three high schools from Bend being so head-to-head the last decade, and the competition never seems to die down. It’s always a close race. … That’s what these schools bring with them, that constant competition and rivalry that we have within us. And wherever we go, we’ll raise that meet to a higher level.”

Obviously winning a state title is the goal, Bessenyei says, but with a championship comes a target, something the three Bend high schools would certainly enjoy wearing as they get ready for 6A competition.

“It would be awesome,” says Summit coach Sierra Lewis. “If any of the schools in Bend take it this year, that would be exciting.”

Something like a warning, Lewis adds with a chuckle: “We’re coming.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com