By Ron Newberry
Special to The Seattle Times
Mercer Island is landslide favorite to win fourth title
Chauntelle Johnson doesn’t know what it’s like to finish anything but first as the coach of the Mercer Island girls swim team.
That isn’t expected to change this week at the Class 3A state championships at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
Mercer Island is the landslide favorite to win its fourth consecutive state title in Johnson’s fourth season.
Should all go according to plans, would this be Johnson’s best team?
“It’s hard for me to say that. They’re very good,” said Johnson, whose Islanders defeated 4A KingCo powers Newport and Skyline in both dual meets and at the conference championships this season. “This is a 3A meet that’s faster than 3A meets have been the last couple of years really when you look at it from top to bottom. Being here the past couple of years, I know what this group of capable of. I feel really good about how they’re going to swim this weekend.”
Johnson is sending 18 swimmers to the state meet, which starts Friday. Mercer Island will try to do its part to be what could be an all-KingCo trio of champions should Newport or Skyline win 4A and Lake Washington come away with the 2A title.
Senior Grace Wold is out to defend her titles in the 100-yard butterfly and 200 Individual Medley for the Islanders. Johnson said she believes that Wold, freshman Sabrina Kwan and juniors Alex Seidel and Caitlin Cox are all potential top-four finishers in their events. Mercer Island also boasts two top-seeded relays and another that is seeded second.
Johnson, however, isn’t about to discount Bainbridge, state runners-up to Mercer Island the past two seasons and the Islanders’ biggest threat this season.
“I think team-wise Bainbridge is tough,” Johnson said. “I’d love to say it’s us versus them. It’s not. It’s us versus everyone. It’s a really great 3A meet this year. It’s faster than I’ve seen in the last couple of years.”
Among the storylines at the state championships will be whether Garfield senior Caitlin Chambers will be able to break the 4A meet diving record and just how fast Gig Harbor junior Carolyn McCann will go in the 100 breaststroke.
However, it should be noted that the KingCo also will be displaying a new crop of freshman talent who’ve made a splash this season and will be making their debuts in state competition.
Garfield’s Marley Cross is seeded No. 2 in the 4A 50 freestyle, while teammate Jocelyn Crawford is the No. 2 seed in the 100 breaststroke behind McCann.
Newport boasts Elisa Fang (fourth seeded in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke) and Jenny Huo (fourth seed in the 200 Individual Medley).
In 3A, Mercer Island’s Sabrina Kwan is seeded No. 1 in the 100 butterfly (56.63) and No. 3 in the 50 freestyle and is part of two of the Islanders’ title-contending relays.
In 2A, Lake Washington’s Jayna VanStone is the No. 1 seed in the 200 freestyle (1:59.05).
“There’s never a shortage of new talent in this conference,” Mercer Island senior Grace Wold said.
“It’s a pretty good class of freshman this year, even throughout state,” Newport coach Eric Bartleson said.
Among them is Mariner’s Brianna Lucien, who is seeded in the top four in two events in the 4A meet.
A look at some of the top area individual performances from last week:
– Kim Williams, Bellevue: Sophomore recorded All-American consideration times at the 3A Sea-King championships – 200 IM (2:03.42) and 100 breaststroke (1:04.55).
– Caitlin Chambers, Garfield: Senior and defending state diving champion scored 475.55 points to capture the 4A Sea-King title.
– Kalena Laurent, Cascade: Senior won the 200 freestyle (1:53.30) and 100 butterfly (56.64) at the WesCo 4A District meet to grab No. 1 seeds in both events at the state meet.
– Mackenna Briggs, Liberty: Sophomore recorded All-American consideration time of 56.78 in the 100 backstroke at the 3A Sea-King District meet
– Jayna VanStone, Lake Washington: Freshman was part of three winning events in state-qualifying times at the Northwest 2A District meet.