FEDERAL WAY — In the past, perhaps Mia Chang might’ve let the pressure of being the state favorite get to her.
“I used to get really nervous to the point where my hands, like, I couldn’t even control them because I was so nervous,” she said.
But over the course of this past year, the Jackson High School junior standout said she’s learned how to positively channel the inevitable nerves of a big race.
“I feel like I take these situations and I do get nervous, but I guess I use that as excitement to fuel my energy,” she said. “So I don’t really see it as nerves. It’s more like happy butterflies, not nervous butterflies.”
Chang shined with a spectacular performance on the big stage Saturday, capturing two individual Class 4A state titles and leading the Timberwolves to a pair of top-three relay medals during the state swim and dive championships at King County Aquatic Center.
The speedy Jackson star swam both of her winning races in All-American automatic qualifying times and received 4A swimmer of the meet honors.
Chang also led the Timberwolves to a fifth-place finish in the 4A team standings. It was Jackson’s fifth top-five state finish in the past six years.
“It feels really good to see everything all come together,” she said. “I was really happy with my swims today.”
Entering as the top seed in the 100-yard backstroke and 200 individual medley, Chang delivered title-winning performances in both events.
Chang cruised to victory in the 100 backstroke with a time of 54.54 seconds, finishing more than 1.7 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Her winning time was significantly faster than the third-place state times she posted in the event each of the previous two seasons.
“For her size, she’s just really efficient with what she does in the water,” Jackson coach Drew Whorley said. “She’s an exceptional kicker. … If you’re really good (underwater) and you can separate yourself when you decide to, then it makes it hard for other people to track you down.”
Chang also won the 200 IM in 1:59.71, touching the wall 0.27 seconds ahead of second-place Newport senior Samantha Baron.
“I was really happy with that going under 2 minutes,” Chang said. “It’s really a big milestone. … I’ve been working hard on all of my strokes, so to see my IM just come together like that, it was really good.”
In addition to her individual title haul, Chang teamed with junior Caitlyn Anderson and seniors Emily Mun and Heidi Ly for a pair of top-three relay medals.
The Jackson quartet placed second in the 200 freestyle relay with an All-American consideration time of 1:36.90, finishing just 0.6 seconds behind state champion Newport.
“All four of those girls had incredible splits,” Whorley said.
The same four Timberwolves also took third place in the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:33.49.
“(Chang) was critical on our relays,” Whorley said. “… Those really helped cement what the team was able to accomplish.”
Ly also excelled in individual events, placing sixth in both the 100 backstroke and 200 IM.
“Heidi had two terrific swims,” Whorley said.
And while Jackson has long been a swimming powerhouse, Saturday marked the first time in program history that two divers scored points at a state meet for the Timberwolves, according to Whorley. Jackson sisters Lauren and Leah Wierschke placed eighth and ninth, respectively, in the diving competition.
“Those points definitely made a difference for us,” Whorley said. “… It was a total team effort, and that’s probably the most rewarding thing.”
KAMIAK STANDOUT CLAIMS FIRST INDIVIDUAL STATE TITLE
Over the years, Elli Straume has been a regular on the upper steps of the state podium. The one feat that had eluded her, however, was an individual state crown.
The Kamiak senior standout and Arizona State University signee checked off that final milestone Saturday during a strong finish to her decorated prep career.
Straume claimed the 4A state title in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:50.96, finishing 0.53 seconds ahead of Curtis junior Leigh Lopez-Silvers. It was the Knights’ first individual girls state champion since 2010.
“It was really exciting,” Straume said. “… I usually have somebody above me (on the podium), so it was really nice to be first for once. All that hard work and all the goals paid off, so it was really rewarding.”
Straume also placed second in the 100 freestyle with an All-American consideration time of 50.29, finishing just 0.17 seconds behind Newport junior Jaime Chen. It was the sixth top-three individual state medal of Straume’s career.
In addition, Straume led Kamiak relay teams to a pair of seventh-place state medals.
Straume, Grace Hatscher, Jacquelynn Person and Sophia Ryu reached the podium in the 200 freestyle relay. Straume, Hatscher, Person and Phung Vo did the same in the 400 freestyle relay.
Straume finished her prep career with the maximum possible 16 state medals, with eight podium finishes apiece in individual and relay events. Yet as both Straume and Kamiak coach Chris Erickson pointed out, the 16-for-16 feat wouldn’t have been possible without her teammates rising to the occasion.
“The relays were on the bubble (this year), so it was the other three girls that pulled her through,” Erickson said. “And they were excited to be a part of it.”
Straume carried the Knights to an eighth-place finish in the 4A team standings, which gave her one more trip onto the podium alongside her teammates.
“I love being up there with my team more than myself,” she said, “because (of) all that hard work you put in together.”
GLACIER PEAK DIVER PLACES 4TH
Glacier Peak senior Ryzele Lagdaan took fourth place in the diving competition with a score of 333.90 points.
It was the first state medal for Lagdaan, who earned top-12 state finishes all four years of her prep career. She placed 12th as a freshman, 10th while battling illness as a sophomore and ninth last year.
“We saw a lot of improvement in a lot of places (this year) with Ryzele,” Glacier Peak dive coach Marc Hughes said. “Even though she progressively got better each year, this was a much larger jump than between freshman, sophomore (and) junior year. They were little increments there. Here, (she) made kind of a leap and bound.”
Hughes said adding an inward 1.5 dive to her repertoire was key to boosting her scores this season and vaulting up the state podium.
“The fact that she stepped up and did that dive and was able to complete that dive effectively basically added over 20 points right away to her score,” Hughes said. “Just a phenomenal job being able to come in here in her senior year and be able to … finish in a good, strong fourth place.”
LAKE STEVENS DUO EARNS MEDALS
Lake Stevens senior Cheyenne Kreide used a strong finish to claim a fourth-place state medal in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:04.55. It was nearly four seconds faster than the time she swam at last year’s state meet, when she placed 17th.
“She was very excited about making her senior year really count,” Lake Stevens coach Sarah Summers said. “(She) worked really, really hard in the offseason and … was really just on fire here for finals. Just a fantastic swim. Technically, everything came together.
“Here was the last race of her high school career,” Summers added, “and she just put everything on the line to have a really great swim.”
Lake Stevens sophomore Madelynn Butler earned seventh-place state medals in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle.
“The sprints are really tailored for her,” Summers said, “and to make top eight in both her events was a fantastic accomplishment for her as a sophomore.”