FEDERAL WAY — Nicole Limberg capped her already-impressive career with a brilliant final chapter.
The standout Jackson senior won a pair of individual state championships and helped the Timberwolves’ relay teams to a state title and a second-place finish during the Class 4A state swimming and diving meet Saturday at the King County Aquatics Center.
Limberg, who was named the 4A swimmer of the meet, finishes her decorated career as a five-time individual state champion and a four-time relay champion.
Yet as extraordinary as her performance was, Jackson coach Drew Whorley wasn’t surprised.
“She’s always been one of the hardest workers in the pool,” he said. “She started chipping away at some state titles her sophomore year and there was just a certain amount of confidence that I think started to emerge. She trains with it every day and she leads with it in the pool. She’s technically gifted, and she’s worked really hard.”
Limberg claimed her third consecutive 100-yard breaststroke title with a time of 1 minute, 2.23 seconds. She beat second-place Isabelle Dressel of Wenatchee by 0.33 seconds and bettered last year’s winning time by 1.3 seconds.
Limberg also defended her title in the 200 individual medley, posting a time of 2:02.28 that was nearly three seconds faster than last year’s winning time. At the race’s midway point, Limberg was in third place and more than a second behind the leader. But Limberg jumped in front with a dominant breaststroke leg and pulled away to beat second-place Christina Bradley of Skyline by 2.6 seconds.
“I was really happy,” Limberg said of her big day. “I just wanted to make sure that I had fun. And my competitors pushed me a lot to go faster.”
Yet the highlight of her day came in the meet’s opening race, when Jackson’s team of senior Madison Pressler, Limberg, junior Chloe Limargo and junior Alexis Nims won the 200 medley relay state title with a school-record time of 1:47.41. The Timberwolves beat defending champion Skyline by 0.3 seconds.
Pressler opened the team’s lead in the backstroke leg, Limberg widened the gap in the breaststroke and Limargo stretched the margin in the butterfly. Nims then held off a late Skyline charge in the freestyle before touching the wall, turning to Jackson’s cheering section and signaling a No. 1 with her finger.
“When everyone’s doing so well, we all swim so fast,” Limberg said. “And that’s why I love high school swimming so much, because it’s just a full-on team effort.”
Limberg and that same team of Jackson swimmers also earned a second-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay. Pressler took the Timberwolves from fourth place to second place with a speedy third leg, and Limberg swam a strong anchor leg to help Jackson finish less than two seconds behind state champion Skyline with a time of 3:33.46.
Pressler also took third place in the 200 freestyle (1:51.84) and fourth in the 100 freestyle (52.64), and Limargo placed third in both the 200 IM (2:05.91) and 100 breaststroke (1:04.82). Jackson finished fifth in the team standings (186 points), followed by Kamiak in sixth (144 points). Skyline won the team title with 243 points.
The meet’s top relay performance belonged to Kamiak, whose 200 freestyle team set a 4A state record with a winning time of 1:37.74.
The Knights’ team of sophomore Song-Nhi Vo, senior Stina Seaberg, senior Angeline Dovinh and freshman Elli Straume beat second-place Wenatchee by 0.27 seconds and broke Wesco rival Cascade’s previous state record by 0.55 seconds. Dovinh keyed the victory with a dominant third leg that jumped Kamiak from third place to first.
“I knew they could be in range,” Kamiak coach Chris Erickson said of the state record. “I’m pretty surprised they broke it by half a second, though. That’s pretty cool.”
The record-breaking performance was fueled by Kamiak’s near-miss at the state title last year, when the Knights finished just 0.02 seconds behind state champion Newport.
“This year was really a big redemption from last year,” Dovinh said. “Since we lost by just that tiny fraction of a second, we went into this season really wanting that title.”
The Kamiak team of Vo, Seaberg, Dovinh and Straume also placed fifth in the 400 freestyle relay (3:36.48). Straume took third in the 100 freestyle (52.41) and Dovinh placed fifth in both the 200 freestyle (1:54.24) and 100 freestyle (52.90).
Lake Stevens junior Gabby Marlatt earned fourth place in the 50 freestyle (24.37). Glacier Peak sophomore Riley Fidler placed fourth in the 100 butterfly (57.10).
Correction: Madison Pressler swam the third leg of Jackson’s 400 freestyle relay and Nicole Limberg swam the anchor leg. The Timberwolves made a last-minute switch shortly before the race that wasn’t reflected in the official results.