By Morris Malakoff
Snohomish coach John Pringle says his three-time Class 4A girls swimming state championship program is having a down year. But the latest statewide coaches’ poll still picks the Panthers as the team to beat.
The Kamiak Knights went undefeated through the Western Conference season, including a one-point dual-meet win over the Panthers. Still, coach Chris Erickson thinks it will take lapses by other teams for the Knights to lay claim to a state title.
It all means that the state meet Friday and Saturday at the King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way could be one of the most hotly-contested meets in years. Swimmers from Capital of Olympia, Rogers of Puyallup and Central Kitsap are expected to join Kamiak and Snohomish atop the scoreboard.
Kamiak will attempt to win with an overwhelming number of qualified swimmers. The Knights have the maximum four swimmers qualified for the 100-yard backstroke. Rikka Brunner will enter the meet seeded third in the event. Patricia Lavery, Mallory Thompson and Arcadia Corbett are all seeded in the second 10. The Knights also count on Shala Van Gerpen, particularly as a strong fourth seed in the 100 butterfly.
The Knights also have strong relay teams, a critical element to a state title as double points are awarded in the three relay events.
The Panthers, according to Pringle, are weak in the relays. But in the individual events, they have Erica Chandler, who has won five individual state championships, including at least one in each of her previous three years. The senior, who is contemplating collegiate offers from the University of Washington and Purdue, is seeded first in the 200 freestyle and second in the 100 yard version of the event. She is the current state title holder in both events.
For all the miles that will be swum over two days, the state title is likely to be decided in the diving pool. Many schools do not have a diving program and are shut out of the points waiting at the end of the 1-meter board. While Snohomish and Kamiak both have qualified three divers, Capital has only one diver, and Central Kitsap and Rogers do not have diving programs.
Snohomish coach Pringle was pleasantly surprised when Anna Millar qualified for state at the district meet last weekend.
“Having a third diver at state is something I had not counted on,” said Pringle, now in his 12th season at Snohomish. “Where we place in that event is critical to where we end in the standings.”
One other Wesco squad has an outside chance at finishing high in the meet standings or at least having some say in who does become state champion. Oak Harbor has qualified strong relay teams, including the number one seed in the 200 freestyle relay.
Among Marysville-Pilchuck’s representatives will be Jessie Rima, who set a school record of 1:02.42 in the 100 backstroke at last Saturday’s Wesco North sub-district meet.
The 3A meet will feature the usual powerhouse teams: Mercer Island, Bainbridge, Newport, and Mount Rainier. The strongest local representation will come from Meadowdale. For four Mavericks swimmers, the state meet will mark the end of their prep swimming careers.
Over the past four seasons, Lauren Johnson, Shelby Hill and Brittany Kunze have been the core of Meadowdale swimming. Three years ago they were joined by Sarah Earling, a student at King’s High School. Earling participates in the swim program at Meadowdale through a program allowing students attending a school without a team to join the one at the school in the area where they live.
For coach Ron Martin, the finale for this unique quartet is bittersweet. For him, they are more than just swimmers.
“They are truly nice people,” said Martin. “They are the heart of our team. They are good swimmers and we knew they would be leaders.”
The rebuilding process is already underway. The Mavericks will have a number of younger team members participating at the state meet. Junior diver Brittany Zedenek, participating in her third state meet, will be joined by freshmen relay team members Katie Atkinson and Ashley Duquette.