By Ron Newberry
Special to The Seattle Times
Mount Rainier rolling at the right time
Mount Rainier coach Chris Veraya likes what he sees from his Rams as the season winds to a close.
One of the top finishers at the Class 4A state meet last year, Mount Rainier returned a large contingent of its best swimmers and they’re showing their strength as the 2012 season approaches the state meet.
Mount Rainier rolled to the South Puget Sound League title last weekend after finishing a second straight unbeaten dual meet season in the SPSL North Division.
The Rams will go for a second consecutive West Central District title this weekend at Curtis.
With three-time defending state champion Skyline lacking a dominant single scorer like in years past, teams such as Mount Rainier, Newport and Richland are among the contenders in the 4A state title chase this season.
“I feel like we’re in the hunt definitely,” said Veraya. “It’ll be exciting to see the heat sheet when it comes out. You never know from year to year. Girls swimming as a sport is very different. Girls coming in as freshmen can have really fast times. You never know what to expect going in.”
Veraya pointed to Gig Harbor, which the Rams will face this weekend, as a wild card. The Tides boast Carolyn McCann, who missed the 2011 high school season while she prepared for the U.S. Olympic Trials. She leads the state in the 100 breaststroke this season with a time of 1:05.88 and has top five times in two other events.
Mount Rainier will send 11 swimmers and three divers to the district meet, led by junior Megan Kawaguchi.
Kawaguchi is peaking at the right time, Veraya said, after being a part of four winning events to help Mount Rainier score 322 points at the SPSL meet. Kentlake was a distant second with 162 points.
Kawaguchi, a junior, won the 200 Individual Medley (2:11.73) and 100 backstroke (57.77) in state-qualifying times and was part of two winning relays.
Senior Courtney Larson finished second in two events and was part of two victorious relays.
Mount Rainier tied for third place with Kentlake at the state meet last season behind Skyline and Stadium.
KingCo stars pick their colleges
Two of the top pool performers in the KingCo have decided where they are going to college.
Defending 4A state diving champion Caitlin Chambers has given a verbal commitment to Princeton, while Mercer Island’s Grace Wold has chosen Wisconsin.
Chambers chose Princeton for what it offers academically as well as its diving program.
“They’re the only school in the Ivy League with a full tower,” Chambers said, “and also the only school with a 10-meter platform. Currently, I dive platform in addition to springboard, so it was really important to me to find a school that had platform.”
Wold is a six-time state champion for the Islanders. Wisconsin’s head coach is Whitney Hite, who once coached at Washington before the program was cut.
The all-classification KingCo championships meet will be Friday and Saturday at the University of Washington. Newport, in 4A, and Mercer Island, in 3A, wrapped up conference dual meet championships on Tuesday.
A look at top individual performers over the past week:
– Anna Keane, Meadowdale: Set Edmonds School District records in the 50 freestyle (24.09) and 100 freestyle (52.57) and anchored state-qualifying 400 freestyle relay (3:50.94) at Lynnwood Pool.
– Kenna Ramey, Federal Way: Junior won the 50 freestyle (24.52) and 100 butterfly (58.87) in 4A state meet qualifying times at the SPSL meet.
– Elisa Fang, Newport: Freshman won the 50 freestyle (24.33 seconds) and 100 breaststroke, (1:10.02) and swam the leadoff leg in the 200 medley relay (1:53.56) in the Knight’s victory over Inglemoor to win the KingCo 4A dual meet championships. All were state-qualifying times.
– Megan Kawaguchi, Mount Rainier: Junior was part of four winning events at the SPSL meet, qualifying for the 4A state meet in three of them.
– Sabrina Kwan, Mercer Island: Freshman met state-qualifying times while winning the 50 free (25.42) and 100 butterfly (59.62) and swam on the state-qualifying 200 medley (1:53.48) and 200 free (1:44.23) relays as the Islanders beat Juanita to win the 3A KingCo dual meet championship.
– Courtney Larson, Mount Rainier: Senior took second in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle and was part of two winning relays at the SPSL meet.
– Shelby Church, Thomas Jefferson: Won the SPSL diving title with a score of 342.50.
– Jenny Huo, Newport: Freshman was a part of three victories, including two relays, in the Knights’ victory over Inglemoor in the 4A KingCo dual meet championship.
– Anne Shirey, Meadowdale: Won the 200 Individual Medley (2:21.47) and 100 breaststroke (1:09.94) and also swam on the state-qualifying 200 medley (1:58.47) and 400 freestyle (3:50.94) relays at the Edmonds School District meet.
– Leah Fisk, Mercer Island: Won the 200 Individual Medley (2:16.54) and the 100 breaststroke (1:11.52) in state-qualifying times and also swam on xxxx
– Laura Williams, Kentlake: Won the 100 breaststroke title (1:11.78) at the SPSL meet.
– Annika Dayton, Glacier Peak: Sophomore qualified for the 3A state diving meet with a score of 328.60 at the WesCo Dive Qualifier in Mukilteo.
– Jackie Beal, Mount Rainier: Senior won the 500 freestyle (5:27.41) at the SPSL meet.