FEDERAL WAY – Might this be Chris Fulton’s folly come to fruition?
The broad-shouldered senior captain and his Snohomish Panthers teammates went methodically about their business during Friday’s preliminaries of the Class 4A boys state swimming and diving championships at the King County Aquatic Center.
As a result, the favored Panthers find themselves in prime position to pounce all over the championship trophy at today’s finals and live up to the bold declaration Fulton made last fall when he said this would be a banner season for he and his mates.
“So far, so good,” Snohomish coach Rob Serviss said after watching his Panthers secure a position in the championship finals of eight events, including the top seed in each of the point-rich relays.
“We’re looking pretty strong.”
The stoic Serviss is a master of the understatement.
Seeded No. 1 in all three relays coming into the meet, the Panthers secured the top spot in the finals of the 200-yard medley relay as well as the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
If Snohomish prevails in each of those races today it will become only the second school in 4A state meet history to win the relay trifecta.
Kentridge swept the relays en route to a state title in 1994.
“I think it shows the strength and depth of our team,” Serviss said. “We’re in a great position and we’ll see what happens.”
While the Panthers’ relay prowess was well-known coming into the state meet, they delivered more shock and awe midway through the prelims, perhaps leaving many among the crowd seeing red and black spots.
In the third heat of the 100 butterfly, the Snohomish quartet of Dan Ferguson, Kyle Endres, Eric Pedack and Colin Hanley swarmed to four of the top five places.
It was a lickety-brindle heat to be sure. So fast, all four Panthers qualified for the championship finals, led by Ferguson who is seeded third (52.65). Pedack and Endres both went 53.83 and tied for the sixth seed.
Hanley’s 54.15 will round out the finals field.
“Outstanding,” Serviss said. “I thought all four would have a Saturday swim, but for all four to make the top eight is pretty incredible.”
In the evening’s opening event, Snohomish cruised to victory in its heat of the 200-yard medley relay, thanks in large measure to sophomore anchorman Nick Hryciuk’s searing 21.86 freestyle leg. The time of 1:40.06 put up by Endres, Fulton, Hanley and Hryciuk earned the top seed ahead of Wilson (1:40.28).
Barring any mistakes, the medley sets up as the closest relay today. In each of the freestyle relays the Panthers are ensconced safely ahead.
Well, as safely ahead as a team can hope to be in the unforgiving world of swimming where a single miscue, such as a false start, means instant disqualification with no second chances.
In the 200 freestyle relay, Ferguson, Fulton, Hanley and Miles Labitzke posted a time of 1:27.90. Kentridge (1:31.30) is the second seed.
Endres, a freshman, kick-started Ferguson, Fulton and Hanley to a 3:15.26 in the 400. Wilson (3:17.10) and Gig Harbor (3:18.20) appear to be the chief challengers.
Snohomish topped its seed time in each of the relays. Individual seed times likewise tumbled in the prelims.
“I’ve always said if you set yourself up on Friday, things can take care of themselves.” Serviss said.
Woven around the relays were a host of outstanding performances for the Panthers apart from the butterfly.
In the 200 freestyle, Ferguson, eighth last year, qualified in the fourth spot in the finals with a 1:43.80. He placed second in his heat behind Bremerton’s Nathan Adrian, whose 1:38.60 was the fourth fastest time in state high school history.
Fulton, fourth last year, qualified third in the 50 freestyle in 21.53. In the 100 freestyle, where he placed seventh last year, Fulton (47.21) qualified third in a field led by Adrian’s 45.74.
Pedack, a sophomore, is the number six seed in the 100 backstroke after turning in a 55.03.
Lake Stevens’ Trevor Olson joins Fulton in the 50 free final, where he is seeded eighth (22.10). Alex Schemkes, Josh Fountain, Chase Winterroth and Olson whittled more than two seconds off their seed time with a 1:42.96 in the 200 medley relay and qualified seventh.
Oak Harbor’s Evan Wilson (4:49.19) is seeded fourth in the 500 freestyle, where Bothell’s Chris Winchell (4:35.51) set the pace. Kamiak’s Thayer Trotter (4:53.98) is seeded seventh.