EVERETT — The seniors on the Cascade girls swimming team wanted to make sure they left an impression.
In the end, they left more of a legacy.
The seniors made sure they went out with a trophy, getting Cascade a third-place finish at last weekend’s 4A state meet — the highest finish for a Cascade swimming team in school history — and setting a state meet record in the process.
For the second consecutive year, the Bruins set the bar in school swimming history. Last year, they cracked the top 10 at state for the first time, finishing 10th overall. This season, they wanted to improve on that finish.
“I kind of had it in the back of my mind that we could be top three, but we talked about being top five all season,” Cascade head coach Eric Smith said. “Last year was the best year ever and everybody that scored points last year was coming back.”
Cascade’s team, which went undefeated in the regular season, knew for a while that it had the opportunity to make school history at last week’s state swimming meet. But even the Bruins had no idea just how strong of a finish they might have to their season.
“Overall, I still can’t even believe how well we did,” star senior swimmer Kalena Laurent said. “It’s kind of crazy, because no one really thought Cascade could do so well. We came from behind and showed them.”
One of the highlights of the meet for the Bruins was the 200-freestyle relay, where they posted the fastest time for the event at a state meet, finishing in one minute, 38.29 seconds.
Laurent was the anchor of the record-setting team, that was led off by Nichole Carlson and also featured Darcie Booth and her younger sister Danielle Booth.
“When I touched that wall on the final leg and looked up everyone was smiling and crying it was definitely a moment I’ll never forget,” Laurent said.
Said Carlson: “The actual amazingness, the weight of it, didn’t hit me until I was on the podium and we were the highest up.”
The Bruins’ third-place overall finish was punctuated with a win in the 400-freestyle relay, the last race of the day — and year.
In the final race of their high school careers, Laurent, Darcie Booth and Carlson finished on top, helping lead the same relay team that won the 200-freestyle relay to victory once again, clinching the top-three finish for the Bruins.
“It was an awesome feeling,” Carlson said. “It was like warm fuzzies, but like, times a million.”
Knowing it was her final high school meet, Booth tried to take as much of the whole experience in as possible. She said it still hasn’t set in that her high school career is over.
“There was definitely moments where we were looking around thinking, this is our last time being here. This is our last state tournament,” Booth said. “It still doesn’t feel like it’s over.”
Laurent helped the Bruins with second-place finishes in the 200-freestyle (1:53.42) and 100 butterfly (a personal best of 56.56).
“She really stepped up,” Smith said. “She was just tough as heck.”
Carlson finished ninth in the 100 butterfly (53.63) and 13th in the 50 freestyle (25.02).
“We knew going in that we were going to have a good showing,” Smith said, “but the girls really stepped up and were phenomenal.”
The Bruins (169 points) finished third, behind 4A state champion Newport (Bellevue) and Richland.
“Getting in the top 10 was huge. We were really excited about that,” Laurent said. “I remember we’d look up at the scoreboards the past few years and thinking, ‘Wow look at those teams. They have so many points.’ It’s kind of weird comprehending being there, getting third place. It’s the first time we’re going to get a trophy to go in the case. It was really special.”
Finishing third was a huge accomplishment for the Bruins. Having a state-meet record was an added bonus.
“It’s amazing,” Carlson said. “Especially because that record was like 20 years old. All these historic people that have come here and swam haven’t gotten it. But me and my best friends got it. It was so cool. I didn’t know we got the record when we swam. I was just glad we won.”
Booth said the finish was a culmination of four-years of hard work by the three seniors, who hoped to one day lead the Cascade swimming team into unchartered waters.
“I think we kind of knew that it was going to end up like this, our freshman year,” Booth said. “Just seeing how the few seniors that year came in (then) changed the team, knowing we’d get better and knowing that we’d have younger siblings coming in a few years. … We couldn’t have asked for it to have gone better. It was amazing and definitely not something that we’re ever going to forget.”
Laurent and Carlson will both continue swimming in college, and Booth is also talking to college coaches. Laurent will sign a letter of intent today accepting a full-ride scholarship to Fordham University in New York City. She visited three schools — Fordham, University of Buffalo and Tulane University in Louisiana — in three weekends and just enjoyed the atmosphere at Fordham.
“It just stuck with me. I had a gut feeling,” Laurent said. “It just had a really homey feel and I felt comfortable there.”
She wants to major in the pre-health program, where she’ll get a chance to explore various options in the medical field before graduate school. Appropriately, Laurent used a swimming metaphor in describing her educational path.
“You can dip your foot in the water for different things that you might not have thought about before,” she said.
Booth would like to stay “close-ish” to home. She’s looking to major in environmental studies, possibly at Pacific Lutheran University and Whitworth College.
Carlson is looking at attending the United States Air Force or Naval Academies. She wants to swim collegiately, while training to become a fighter pilot.
Carlson also recently received a four-year scholarship to Rochester University in New York.
“Wherever I go, I’ll be swimming,” Carlson said.
While a few of its good swimmers will be graduating this year, the Cascade team won’t be starting from scratch next season. Freshman Danielle Booth will be returning, along with sophomore Demetra Laurent, Kalena’s little sister.
Booth was on both swimming relays, and Laurent, who finished sixth in the 500-freestyle (5:11.60), impressed Smith with her constant improvement in the postseason.
“If you look at the results, Demetra kept dropping times from districts on,” Smith said. “Over the course of the last week and a half she’s dropped 10 seconds in the 500 freestyle. She kept getting faster.”
Demetra Laurent said it’s going to be weird not swimming with her sister next year. The two have been in the pool together since the younger Laurent was seven-years old. She’s not sure if the Bruins will be able to once again improve their finish at the state tournament, but she is thankful for the Cascade seniors’ help during her first two years.
“They set the bar high,” Laurent said. “Me and Danielle want to strive to achieve what they’ve achieved. Just swimming with them every meet and every practice was so much fun. They definitely were good role models this year for us.”
“The whole team did a phenomenal job this year,” Smith said. “The whole season, from the dual meets to the state championship, everybody stepped up. It was a lot of fun to watch and I’m really proud of them.”