MUKILTEO — The Kamiak High School boys swim and dive team is loaded with a mix of elite top-end talent and considerable depth.
And now, the Knights can also lay claim to having an Ironman.
Vlad Gilszmer completed the rare feat of qualifying for state in all 11 swimming events and Kamiak clinched its third consecutive Wesco South title with a 110-76 win over visiting Jackson in Thursday afternoon’s annual showdown of perennial area powers.
“It feels pretty good,” Gilszmer said of beating the rival Timberwolves for the third straight year. “They’re an amazing team. They put up a good fight. But in the end, a bunch of our guys stepped up and swam their best and came out with a win.”
This marked the sixth consecutive season that this always-anticipated clash of local powerhouses has decided the Wesco South crown.
After three straight league championships by Jackson from 2015 to 2017, the Knights have won the past three Wesco South titles with decisive victories over the Timberwolves.
This was the regular-season finale for Jackson, but Kamiak (11-0, 8-0 Wesco South) still has one conference dual meet remaining. Yet even with a loss, the Knights would claim the league title over Jackson (8-1, 8-1) by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“It’s always something that we look forward to,” Kamiak coach Chris Erickson said of facing the Timberwolves. “And some years it goes their way, some years it goes our way. But the most important thing is it’s something to look forward to and it motivates (the teams). Whether they’re tired, whether they’re sore, it doesn’t matter.”
Among the many Kamiak highlights Thursday was Gilszmer’s completion of the “Ironman” quest, meaning he’s posted a state-qualifying time this season in all eight individual swimming events. In addition, the junior standout has helped each of the Knights’ three relay teams qualify for the Class 4A state meet.
Entering Thursday, the one individual event Gilszmer hadn’t posted a state-qualifying time in was the 100-yard breaststroke. Just two days prior, he’d missed the state cut by a mere 0.03 seconds.
But the defending 500 freestyle state champion comfortably eclipsed the 100 breaststroke state cut by more than 0.7 seconds Thursday, finishing in 59.96 seconds to pull off the extraordinary accomplishment.
“At my first swim meet (this year), I made (the state cut in) two of the events, and I was like, ‘You know what, I think this is the year,’” Gilszmer said. “So I kind of just went for (state cuts in) all of them. … It’s pretty exciting. Breaststroke was mainly the thing I was worried about, but I ended up doing it today.”
Erickson said Gilszmer might be the first boys swimmer in Kamiak’s illustrious history to complete the “Ironman” feat.
“It’s not done very often,” Erickson said. “It’s pretty rare.”
The Knights swept all three relay races, including a season-best performance in the 200 freestyle relay. The Kamiak team of Vlad Gilszmer, senior Brian Park, junior Slava Gilszmer and senior Max Fang won the event in 1 minute, 28.18 seconds, which according to Erickson is the fastest 4A time in the state this season.
“We hadn’t gone a time that we were capable of until today, so that was good,” Erickson said.
And while Vlad Gilszmer completed the “Ironman” quest, it was twin brother Slava Gilszmer who won a pair of individual events. Slava Gilszmer, who claimed a pair of individual state medals last year, posted a season-best time of 54.32 seconds in the 100 backstroke and also won the 200 freestyle.
In the closest finish of the afternoon, Park edged Fang to win the 50 freestyle and qualify for state. Park posted a winning time of 22.11 seconds, touching the wall just 0.08 seconds ahead of his talented teammate.
Kamiak sophomore Oliver Holod also qualified for state, swimming the 500 freestyle in a winning time of 4:54.32. Entering the day, Holod was more than 7.5 seconds off the state cut and had never broken the five-minute mark. But with smart pacing Thursday, he shattered his previous personal best.
“He swam intelligently,” Erickson said. “Sometimes (you) just think you can just attack it, … but he would always fade. He wasn’t even ahead until the halfway mark, and then he just accelerated. … That was pretty exciting.”
Despite the 34-point final margin, Jackson won five of the meet’s 12 events.
The Timberwolves were led by senior standout and six-time top-10 individual state placer Justin Limberg, who won both the 100 breaststroke (57.75) and 200 individual medley (1:54.56) in season-best times.
Jackson sophomore Jensen Elsemore won the 100 freestyle and sophomore teammate Alex Georgiev took the 100 butterfly with a season-best time. Jackson senior Caleb Finlon won the diving competition with a score of 182.65 points, edging Kamiak junior Ryan Quinn by just 1.4 points.
“I thought that we swam really well,” Timberwolves coach Drew Whorley said. “We were excited to come in and to know that every kid was going to have somebody to compete against. That isn’t always the case. (Kamiak is) just an incredibly deep team, and they’re all so fast up top.
“Our (top swimmers) did a terrific job leading today and showed just a lot of heart and a lot of spirit,” he added. “I thought we competed really well today. I was proud of them.”