SNOHOMISH — Kamiak and Jackson have long been the gold standard in Wesco 4A boys swim and dive. And at Saturday’s district championships, Jackson’s top-end firepower was on display once again.
But for the first time in 15 years, a team other than Kamiak or Jackson climbed atop the district throne.
Lake Stevens rode its depth and made a late surge past Jackson to capture the Class 4A District 1 team title at Snohomish Aquatic Center.
It’s believed to be the first district championship in program history, according to Vikings coach Brady Dykgraaf.
“Top to bottom, just an amazing team effort,” Dykgraaf said. “That’s what it’s about. I’m so proud of those guys. The smiles on their faces are well-deserved.”
Lake Stevens finished atop the team standings with 484 points, beating second-place Jackson by 34 points.
Jackson took first place in seven of the 12 events, winning two of the three relay races and five of the eight individual swimming events.
But the Vikings had superior depth.
Lake Stevens earned 20 top-eight finishes in the nine individual events, including 15 top-six placers. And the Vikings took first place in three of the 12 events, with two individual champions and a winning relay team.
“It was nice to have a nice, deep-rostered team,” Lake Stevens junior standout Garrett Chesley said. “We didn’t have to depend on a couple people. We had a whole team who contributed to scoring points.”
The Vikings ended a streak of 13 consecutive district titles between Kamiak and Jackson. That span included 11 outright district titles by Kamiak and one outright district title by Jackson, as well as a shared district title between the two perennial state powers.
“You look at how many ridiculously fast, talented teams exist over the (district’s) history,” Dykgraaf said. “You look at our record board, you look at Jackson, you look at Kamiak. I mean, it’s an honor. It’s hard-fought.
“Jackson, they gave it a run without (having) any divers. It was a pretty impressive meet, and that (title) was well-earned. … And it couldn’t be done with a better group of kids.”
Lake Stevens senior standout Jaden Cardona showcased his next-level talent in the diving competition, cruising to victory with 490.90 points. The University of South Dakota signee and reigning fifth-place 4A state medalist came within 15.8 points of the district meet record, which belongs to three-time state medalist Joseph Hofman of Cascade.
“It’s amazing,” Chesley said of watching his teammate dive. “I’ve never seen anything like it. To see him go out there and move the body the way he does, it’s crazy.”
Chesley delivered an impressive performance himself, breaking the meet record in the 100-yard backstroke with a winning time of 51.96 seconds.
“That kid is a racer,” Dykgraaf said. “And you see what he does in the pool, but no one sees what he does in practice. He’s a ball of energy. He loves racing and he brings out racing in everyone else. … And he is the most coachable athlete I’ve ever had. He’s that fast, and he always wants to learn.”
Chesley’s backstroke victory was part of a late surge by the Vikings.
With three events to go, Lake Stevens trailed Jackson by 12 points. But Chesley was one of three Vikings to finish in the top six of the backstroke, which propelled Lake Stevens into first place and a 21-point lead over the Timberwolves.
The Vikings then placed four swimmers in the top 13 of the 100 breaststroke, which stretched their lead to 28 points.
And in the meet’s final event, they capped their district championship in style by winning the 400 freestyle relay. DJ Trout, Camden Blevins-Mohr, Laird Marlatt and Chesley took first place with a state-qualifying time of 3 minutes, 20.06 seconds.
“It was amazing to be on the first (Lake Stevens) team ever to win,” Chesley said of his team’s historic district title. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
STARPOWER SHINES FOR JACKSON
District runner-up Jackson flexed its muscles by winning seven of the first eight swim events, led by a pair of two-event winners in senior standouts Alex Georgiev and Jensen Elsemore.
Georgiev set the meet record in the 100 butterfly with a winning time of 49.96 seconds, breaking the previous record by 0.42 seconds.
Georgiev, a multi-event state qualifier both as a freshman and sophomore, also nearly broke the meet record in the 50 freestyle. His winning time of 20.95 seconds was just 0.14 seconds off the record set by former Glacier Peak star Matthew King, who was an All-American freestyler at the University of Alabama last season.
“He’s just starting to come into his own,” Jackson coach Drew Whorley said. “I think there’s just this perfect combination occurring right now with emotional, mental and physical maturity, (and) his confidence, his awareness of his abilities and what he’s capable of doing. You’re just seeing it kind of come together.
“And I think he’s got a lot of fast swimming ahead of him,” he added. “He was special today.”
Elsemore, who earned a pair of top-1o state finishes as a sophomore, cruised to victories with state-qualifying times in the 200 freestyle (1:45.33) and 100 freestyle (47.04).
“He left his mark on this meet,” Whorley said. “… He was a beast today.”
Georgiev and Elsemore also led the Timberwolves to a pair of relay victories.
The Jackson team of Ethan Chen-Parks, Ethan Georgiev, Elsemore and Alex Georgiev set a meet record in the 200 freestyle relay with a winning time of 1:26.80. They beat the previous record by 1.61 seconds.
And the team of Braden Thompson, Alex Georgiev, Chen-Parks and Elsemore won the 200 medley relay in a state-qualifying time of 1:37.20. Thompson, a senior, added a first-place finish in the 500 freestyle.
Whorley said the COVID-related challenges of the past two seasons made his swimmers’ accomplishments all the more special. Swimmers across the state missed out on all postseason meets during last spring’s abbreviated season. And this winter, Jackson had about half of its meets canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.
“It’s been just such a challenging couple years,” Whorley said. “… From a coaching standpoint, you feel for them for all the stuff that they sacrificed and missed. And for there just to be some moments today where you could see the pride and the smiles from their teammates, from the parents, from them — you live for that as a coach.”
OTHER LOCAL WINNERS
Glacier Peak senior Keegan Lisenby won the 100 breaststroke, beating junior teammate Shouei Tong by just 0.12 seconds.
Mariner freshman Vyron Domingo took first place in the 200 individual medley.