FEDERAL WAY — Mary Clarke experienced the thrill of winning a state title.
And just an hour later, the Snohomish High School sophomore phenom experienced the mixed emotions of coming oh-so-close to another one.
Clarke captured a Class 3A state title in the 50-yard freestyle and took second place in a photo finish to the 100 freestyle Saturday during the high school girls swim and dive state championships at King County Aquatic Center.
“That first place (was) so phenomenal,” Panthers coach Jenny Service said. “But that second place was hard-earned as well. And I know she won’t forget either of those races.”
Clarke, who was the top seed in both freestyle sprint races, swam a winning time of 23.51 seconds in the 50 freestyle. She finished 0.29 seconds ahead of second-place Ballard sophomore Claudia Yovanovich.
That was Clarke’s best time of the season in the event. And it earned her an All-American consideration.
“I was a little speechless,” said Clarke, who was swimming in her first state meet after last year’s was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s such an incredible feeling. And it’s really fulfilling just looking at that clock and realizing that all the work that you’ve put toward it has paid off. (It was) just super exciting.”
Clarke also swam her best time of the season in the 100 freestyle, touching the wall at 51.19 seconds. But so did Bainbridge freshman Tierney Lenahan, who finished just 0.04 seconds ahead of Clarke to claim the state title.
“It was definitely bittersweet,” Clarke said. “I am really proud of myself being able to accomplish that time on the board, but 0.04 is just so close. … It’s definitely bittersweet just coming so close.”
It capped a spectacular sophomore season for Clarke, who led Snohomish to a 12th-place finish in the 3A state team standings.
Last week, Clarke led the Panthers to the 3A District 1 team title while setting meet records in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. She also broke the program record in the 100 freestyle last week, which gave her school records in both freestyle sprint events. She set the program’s 50 freestyle record as a freshman during this past spring’s abbreviated season.
“When Mary swims, you can definitely tell how tall she is,” Service said. “A lot of swimmers haven’t figured out their length. Mary has definitely figured out how tall she is and the length of her stroke.”
Service also praised Clarke’s work ethic and commitment to her teammates.
“This meet just makes me want to like tear up a little bit,” Service said, “because the work ethic that she has and puts into the pool every day is an inspiration to her teammates and her coaches.”
Clarke and Service both said they expect the narrow second-place state finish to serve as motivation going forward.
“That’s the best part about Mary,” Service said. “She will always find something that she did great in a race, but she’ll always find something she knows she needs to improve on. And that was the first thing out of her mouth when she came over to the coaches’ table.
“She will definitely keep improving in that race. And I know she’s gonna be out next year for a vengeance.”
Kamiak sophomore captures butterfly state title
A false start on the blocks cost Claire Smith a chance at a district title last week.
But the Kamiak sophomore got the ultimate redemption Saturday.
Smith used a strong closing kick to pull away for the 4A state title in the 100 butterfly, posting a winning time of 57.10 seconds. She finished 0.85 seconds ahead of runner-up Newport senior Joy Li.
“Amazing,” Smith said of her reaction to being a state champion. “I didn’t expect this, but it’s an amazing thing to happen. … I honestly could not have imagined this last year. It’s just kind of overwhelming and a really special thing.”
Smith was third midway through the race, but surged in front with a blistering 30.24-second split over the final 50 yards. She closed particularly strong over the final 25 yards.
“We knew it was gonna be close, and it was tied at the 75 (yard mark),” Kamiak coach Chris Erickson said. “She just came back strong and left the field. So it was very exciting.”
After Smith began swimming competitively around fifth grade, the butterfly initially became her main stroke. But for the past few years, she’d focused more on the backstroke. It wasn’t until this season that she decided to focus once again on the butterfly.
The turning point was her peformance in the butterfly at the Western Zone Senior Championships this past July in California.
“I was focusing on backstroke as my main event, and (the butterfly) was just kind of a filler event,” she said. “… I did way better than I expected to. And so I just kind of decided to give it a chance this season.”
Smith entered the state meet as the No. 7 seed, with a top time of 59.48 seconds. That was largely because of her disqualification at the district meet, which kept her from posting a better seed time for state.
But Smith sure made up for it over the past two days. She posted the second-fastest prelims time Friday at 57.79 seconds. And in Saturday’s finals, she shaved 0.69 more seconds off her top time.
“I was really determined to go faster than (my previous top time), just to prove that I could,” she said.
Smith is the fourth individual state champion in the history of Kamiak’s perennial powerhouse program, according to Erickson.
“It all starts with hard work,” Erickson said. “And she is a hard worker. One day we were doing timed 100 flys, and she did 200 flys instead. So it’s just stuff like that.
“You could just see that she was putting it together for her best performance of the season here. And that’s what you want to do with everybody. She really peaked at the right time.”
Smith also helped lead the Knights to an eighth-place finish in the 4A team standings, as well as a pair of relay medals.
The Kamiak team of freshman Julia Lorenzo, senior Sophia Ryu, Smith and freshman Janey Ryu took fifth place in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:52.36. And the same four swimmers placed eighth in the 400 freestyle relay.
Sophia Ryu also placed eighth in the 100 breaststroke.
Jackson swimmer, diver earn top-3 state medals
A pair of Jackson athletes each used a strong finish to claim a top-three state medal.
Jackson freshman Olivia Hoyla took second place in the 4A 200 individual medley with a time of 2:08.91. Redmond senior Catherine Yu pulled away from the field and won by nearly 6 seconds, but Hoyla beat a pair of other swimmers for second place. Hoyla was in fourth heading into the final freestyle leg before surging down the stretch for a runner-up finish.
“The moment wasn’t too big for her,” Jackson coach Drew Whorley said. “She’s kind of a big-game swimmer. … And to see her execute that and fight people off in the end was awesome.
“She put herself in the right situation and gave herself a chance in the last 50 and was able to out-touch somebody,” he added. “That was a very exciting moment for her.”
Jackson junior Lauren Wierschke placed third in the 4A diving competition with 300.15 points. She entered the finals in fifth place, but moved two spots up the leaderboard over her final three dives. It was the second state medal for Wierschke, who placed eighth in the 4A diving competition as a freshman in 2019.
“Lauren had the meet of her life,” Jackson dive coach JoLynne Abbe said. “She’s always been steady. And you can tell when Lauren gets on the board, she gets in this little zone. … I’m very proud of her.”
Monroe swimmer claims pair of top-4 medals
Mia Grove fell short of reaching state as a freshman. She was sick for state as a sophomore, which affected her performance and forced her to scratch one of her events. And there wasn’t a state meet last year, due to the pandemic.
So for the Monroe senior, this was her last chance.
And she made the most of it.
Grove capped her prep career with a pair of top-four state medals in the 3A meet, placing third in the 100 freestyle and fourth in the 100 backstroke.
“It kind of feels a little unreal right now,” Grove said. “I don’t think it’s quite hit. … I did not actually make state my freshman year. And now I’m here top five in both my events. And it feels great.”
Grove swam the 100 freestyle in 52.32 seconds, finishing more than a second behind Lenahan and Clarke. It was her second school record in as many days in that event, after initially breaking the record in Friday’s prelims. She posted a time of 57.21 seconds in the 100 backstroke.
“There’s just nobody that could exemplify hard work more than Mia,” Monroe coach Dick Green said. “I try to keep track of all the workouts that she did this year. Just with us, she was averaging over 30,000 yards a week. And then with her other workouts, she was probably 40,000 yards (per week).
“So if anybody deserved these kinds of swims, it was certainly Mia. Nobody has a better work ethic than she does.”
Other top local finishers
— Lake Stevens senior Madelynn Butler placed fourth in the 4A 100 freestyle (53.32) and sixth in the 50 freestyle (24.46). She placed seventh in both events as a sophomore in 2019 and finishes her prep career with four individual state medals.
— Archbishop Murphy freshman Sam Mandeville placed fifth in the 2A diving competition with 272.65 points. She finished 59.65 points behind the state champion, but just 7.1 points behind the runner-up.
— Cascade junior Saige Anderson placed sixth in the 3A diving competition with 283.35 points.
— Glacier Peak senior Megan Lamping won both the adaptive 50 freestyle and the adaptive 50 backstroke.