Prep girls swimming preview: 5 storylines to watch

The key storylines for the 2018 girls swim season:

Snohomish returns a defending state champion. Panthers sophomore Kayli Kersavage already has reached the pinnacle of diving at the Class 3A level, coming out on top of a tightly contested top-three at the 2017 state meet. Kersavage finished just .15 points in front of Squalicum’s Helene Synnott, and .3 points ahead of Bellingham’s Sarah Walsh. In order to claim a second straight state title, Kersavage will have to fend off Synnott, a returning senior, once more. “I just can’t even imagine what the years ahead will hold for her,” Panthers dive coach Marc Hughes said last fall after Kersavage was crowned champion. “Honestly, if she keeps up at this pace, you’ll probably see her on a national level.”

Kamiak freestyler poised to top podium. Elli Straume was near the top of the leaderboard in four different events at the 4A state meet, but a first-place finish eluded the Knights’ freestyle specialist. After a runner-up finishes in the 200-meter freestyle and the 200 freestyle relay, a third-place finish in the 200 individual medley relay and a fourth-place finish in the 100 freestyle, the Kamiak junior should be a top candidate to break through for a state title. Straume set Northwest 4A district meet records in the 100 freestyle and as apart of both of the Knights’ freestyle relay teams.

Defending 3A district champ returns solid core. Shorecrest looks primed to contend for a second straight 3A Northwest District championship behind juniors Anna Sargent, Jiahui Zeng, Marina Or and Paige Moss. The quartet led the Scots’ freestyle relay team to a first-place finishes in the 200 and 500 meters and had plenty of strong finishes as individuals as well. Sargent claimed first in the 200 and 500 freestyle, Or took second in the 50 freestyle, Moss earned second in the 100 butterfly and Zeng finished fourth in the 200 medley and 100 breaststroke.

“Everybody from that group — and it is mainly my juniors and then I have one strong sophomore, Abby Crum,” Scots coach Bill Murray said. “So everybody that represented us at state last year is returning this year.”

Expect the usual powers to battle for Wesco South title. In each of the past three seasons, Kamiak, Jackson, Shorecrest and Shorewood have been the top four teams in the conference standings, combining for a record of 85-17 in league meets.

There’s no reason to believe the trend won’t continue.

Kamiak returns Straume and its other strong relay team members, senior Song-Nhi Vo and juniors Frace Hastcher and Ava Collinge. Jackson loses star Chloe Limargo, but returns talented sophomore Mia Chang and hasn’t finished worse than third in the conference over the past four years. Shorecrest has its group of talented returners, and rival Shorewood always seems to have a competitive squad.

“(Jackson has) some really talented young kids, so I’m expecting that they’re going to be as good or better than last year,” Murray said. “And Kamiak is insanely deep, too, with their swimmers. So I think we’re pretty much setting up similar to last year.”

Early-season loss may show power change in Wesco North. Lake Stevens had been unbeatable against conference opponents since Wesco split swimming into North and South divisions prior to the 2014 season. The Vikings ran off 39 straight wins against league opponents before Snohomish opened the season with a 110-76 win over the Vikings in a three-team meet with Cascade. If the Panthers can build on their impressive opening win, they could end Lake Stevens’ four-year regular-season title reign after two straight runner-up finishes.

“It’s looking like Snohomish’s team kind of got a really fast freshman class, on top of a good team from last year,” Murray said.

Panthers coach Rob Serviss highlighted Audrey Marrs, Mieko Schwarzmiller, Anna Kowalchyk, Kendal Benson, Stella Puteney, Macky Blackwell, Rylee Johnston and Natalie Farlow as some of the key pieces of the team’s deep lineup.

“We were very, very lucky this year. We had a lot of people return that are performing very well … most of our varsity team was back from last year, and we’ve got an insanely talented group of freshmen that have kind of grew up at the pool,” Serviss said. “We opened (the Snohomish Aquatics Center) five years ago and now we’re getting some of those kids that were in third, fourth grade when we opened.”

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