MILL CREEK — The annual dual-meet showdown between perennial powerhouses Jackson and Kamiak is always a major event in the local high school girls swim and dive scene.
This year’s rivalry clash was all Timberwolves.
Jackson completed a perfect regular season and secured the Wesco South title with a 105-65 win over the visiting Knights in the dual-meet finale for both teams Thursday at WEST Coast Aquatics.
“I feel like today in particular there was just kind of a palpable buzz to this meet,” Timberwolves coach Drew Whorley said. “(Our swimmers) always get fired up to swim this team. It’s always a great rivalry, they’re well-coached (and they’re) just always a talented group. And the performances that we had today were definitely above where we’ve been the better part of the second half of the season.”
It was simply the latest in what’s been a season of dominance for Jackson.
The Timberwolves (10-0, 9-0 Wesco South) outscored opponents by an average of 62.8 points in their 10 dual meets, winning each by at least 22 points. In addition to this victory, Jackson also notched wins over a pair of other top-tier teams in Shorecrest and Snohomish.
“Being undefeated isn’t always on our minds,” Jackson senior Heidi Ly said. “It’s always about having fun. … We kind of focus on how much fun we’re having and we make sure that we always support each other.”
It was the second conference loss of the season for three-time defending Wesco South champion Kamiak. The Knights (10-3, 7-2) also fell to Shorecrest earlier this month.
“They are certainly the district favorites,” Kamiak coach Chris Erickson said of the Timberwolves. “I haven’t really looked at state, but you’d think top 10 or top five (in Class 4A).”
Jackson was once again led by standout Mia Chang, who is the third-ranked junior recruit in the state and the No. 101 junior recruit in the nation according to CollegeSwimming.com.
Chang, who owns a pair of third-place state medals in the 100-yard backstroke, cruised to victory in the 100 butterfly (56.67 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (1:06.40). She also anchored the Timberwolves to a pair of relay victories.
“I haven’t found a thing that she can’t do,” Whorley said. “The amount of heart and guts that she swims with and the competitiveness — she shows up in the biggest moments. She’s the ultimate go-to swimmer.
“No matter what meet we have — whoever their best swimmer is, whatever their best event is — you can put her in to try and offset what they’re going to do.”
Chang teamed with Ly, senior Emily Mun and junior Caitlyn Anderson for Jackson’s triumphs in the 200 freestyle relay (1:41.84) and 400 freestyle relay (3:39.81). The same four swimmers teamed for fifth-place state medals last year in both the 400 freestyle and 200 medley relays.
“Our relays have been coming together really nicely,” Chang said.
Ly also raced to victory in the 200 individual medley (2:12.59) and won the 100 backstroke (1:01.66). She reached the state finals in both events last year, placing fifth in the latter.
“Heidi’s been really consistent for us in the 100 backstroke and 200 IM ever since she’s been here, but her sprint freestyle stuff has gotten so much better,” Whorley said. “And the impact that’s had on our relays as we head into postseason and the flexibility it’s giving me, … (I’m) just really proud of her development over the course of all four years.”
Mun won the 100 freestyle (55.70) and tied with Anderson for first place in the 50 freestyle (25.59). The highlight of her day, however, likely came when she swam a state-qualifying 100 freestyle time during the opening leg of the 400 freestyle relay, beating the state cut by 0.05 seconds.
“I was super happy,” Ly said of her teammate’s accomplishment. “I was like about to cry, because I know she’s been working really hard.”
Kamiak was led by standout senior Elli Straume, who cruised to victory in the 500 freestyle (5:09.43). The Arizona State University commit also anchored the team of Phung Vo, Grace Hatscher and Sophia Ryu to victory in the 200 medley relay (1:54.75).
Straume, the seventh-ranked overall senior recruit in the state, owns four top-three individual state medals and has reached the podium in all 12 state races she’s swam.
“Elli is a phenomenal talent,” Whorley said.
Parker Hoppe also picked up a win in the 200 freestyle for the Timberwolves, who provided plenty of energy throughout the meet with enthusiastic chants and cheering. After the victory, a dozen or so Jackson swimmers received flowers and posed for photos as part of their senior-night celebration.
“(We have) a group of seniors that are just such exceptional leaders both in and out of the pool,” Whorley said. “They score points, but they’re good characters and they’re good individuals.
“It’s just really rewarding to be able to kind of sit back and let them lead and watch them experience this type of success and earn the accolades that they’ve earned thus far.”