Kamiak boys swim team looks to repeat as state champs

MUKILTEO — A year ago the Kamiak boys swimming team used some outstanding talent and overall depth to win the state Class 4A swimming and diving championship at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. It was the third title in a five-year span for the Knights.

Kamiak coach Chris Erickson would love to add a fourth championship at this weekend’s state meet, but he knows it is only possible, not probable.

Erickson said he would be “absolutely” flabbergasted to win a repeat title. “A couple of other teams have so many guys,” he pointed out. “And if you don’t have enough horses in the race, you just don’t have (much chance).”

Still, the Knights are bidding for another strong showing, and seem likely to claim their seventh top-seven finish in as many years. The team is lead by a trio of state-meet veterans — juniors Eben Schumann and Shelby Lee, and sophomore Henry Limm — who have qualified in both individual and relay events.

“They’re the ones that control our destiny,” Erickson said. All three qualified for state at Saturday’s district championships, both individually and in relays.

Erickson is in his 16th season as Kamiak’s head coach, and he has guided the program to elite status in the state. The Knights placed second in 2008, first in 2009, seventh in 2010, first in 2011, third in 2012 and were first again last season.

In a given year, and with enough top swimmers on the team, “we expect to be in the hunt,” he said. “Otherwise we expect to do our best. We want our best swimming of the year to be at state.

“And if we have a bunch of (top) guys, then we can think about a championship. But if we only have a couple of guys, then we’re thinking about how we might get 10th place.”

Last year’s team was led by seniors Liam Sosinsky and John Stupey, and their absences have been felt this season. “Our team is not as strong as it was last year,” Schumann acknowledged, “so it’s going to be a bit of a shock if we do win state again. I don’t think it’s something we’re going to expect. It’s something we’re going to have to work hard for.”

Schumann will swim the 50 and 100 freestyles (he finished third and fourth in those events a year ago), and the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays. He will be joined in both relays by Lee and Limm, with Lee also swimming the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, and Limm in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle.

Limm says he would be “pleasantly surprised” if Kamiak claimed a repeat championship. “I think it’d be great,” he said. “I’m not going to go in with my heart set on winning state. But we’re going to work as hard as we can to do it and we’ve got an OK shot at it.”

Lee said last year’s title gave everyone “a great feeling. You get a sense of pride for the team. We have this long streak of wins, and it was kind of like we were living up to our name.

“We’ve been such a dominant team for a while now, so it’s kind of expected that Kamiak will do well at state,” he added.

Moreover, the Knights have only a few varsity seniors this season, so most of the squad will return next year, including Schumann, Lee and Limm. “And I think there’s a lot of potential in our sophomores and juniors,” Schumann said.

Asked if his team’s future is indeed bright, Erickson responded with a smile.

“Maybe,” he said, “but we need a little more. A couple more (strong swimmers) would be fine and then we’ll be right back in the mix.”

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