Snohomish girls take aim on crown


Herald Writer

FEDERAL WAY – At least there was nothing fuzzy about the math.

In what became clear at Thursday’s prelims, in which Snohomish advanced 10 individuals and all three relays to today’s finals, is that the Panthers have a solid shot at claiming a third straight state 4A swimming and diving championship.

But, it won’t come easy, not with Gig Harbor looking to send the Panthers and their title hopes to the murky depths of the otherwise pleasant King County Aquatic Center.

“Gig Harbor is going to fight hard,” said Snohomish coach John Pringle. “They want that trophy back real bad.”

The Snohomish bid for another title is again being led by high school All American Erica Chandler, a junior, who enters today’s finals as the No. 1 seed in the 100- and 200-yard freestlyle events, after posting times of 52.15 seconds and 1:51.27, respectively.

Chandler is seeking a third straight individual title in the 200 freestyle. From the outset Chandler demonstrated she was in no mood to take prisoners in the prelims as she simply blew away the field in the 200 freestyle and finished more than two seconds ahead of her nearest challenger.

“I think we have a very good shot,” Chandler said. “If we don’t make any mistakes we can do it.”

Her teammate, Christine Neely, is the No. 1 seed and leads a trio of Panthers into the finals of the 100 backstroke. Neely, a senior, has hopes of claiming her third title in four years in that event. Fellow seniors Ashley Boxman and Katherine Cuevas qualified fourth and ninth, respectively.

Snohomish and Gig Harbor are the only schools to qualify all three relays for the championship finals. Those relays, together with the Panther depth in the backstroke, will be critical if the Panthers hope for a three-peat.

Oak Harbor’s Chauntelle Johnson and Kyla Meuer gave the Wildcats a solid position as each qualified for the 50 and 100 freestyle championship finals. And the pair also led the Wildcats to the No. 4 seed in the 200 medley relay.

Other top performers included Sehome’s Gretchen Plank, who qualified No. 2 in the 100 backstroke.

Woodinville’s Emily Schmied qualified fourth in the 100 butterfly and fifth in the 200 freestyle, just ahead of Edmonds-Woodway’s Sarah Spillman, who qualified sixth.

Spillman also qualified as No. 6 in the 500 freestyle. Woodinville’s Kelsey Withrow is in the seventh spot in that event.

Bothell’s Shelbi Settlage and Cascade’s Rachel MacNeill are seeded fourth and seventh, respectively, in the 200 individual medley. Settlage also qualified fourth in the 100 breaststroke. Kamiak’s Jill Spencer and Ashley Best, and Bonna Pak of Mountlake Terrace are seeded sixth, seventh and eighth in that event.

In the relays the Panthers grabbed the No. 2 seed in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle before capping off the night by earning the top seed in the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:40.32. Gig Harbor countered that by qualifying fifth, first and third in the 200 medley, 200 free and 400 free relays.

“We’ve been focusing on that last relay all year,” Pringle said of the 400 free. “I feel that if we need it to win the meet, we can do it.”

Brimming with the right mix of talent and justifiably confident, the Panthers may indeed be poised to become the first Snohomish team to earn three consecutive state championships in any sport.

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