By Ron Newberry
Special to The Seattle Times
It’s almost time for Mercer Island’s boys’ swim team to splash water in its face and get ready for competition again.
By the time the Islanders face Bainbridge Island next Tuesday, it will have been exactly three weeks since they’ve competed.
There will be little time for Mercer Island to warm up as the Islanders (4-0) start the post-holiday break with three meets that coach Chauntelle Johnson expect to be telling indicators this season.
Mercer Island, state runners-up at the Class 3A meet last year after winning six straight state championships, hosts Bainbridge (Jan. 8) and Bellevue (Jan. 10) before capping the week with a date at the Kentridge Invitational (Jan. 12) at the King County Aquatic Center.
“We really have been looking at next week as being a big week for the season,” Johnson said. “We run into a stretch with quite a few meets in a short period of time.”
Mercer Island already has won dual meets over two of the KingCo’s top 4A teams, Newport and Issaquah. Bellevue is expected to be its top 3A competition in the conference.
“Bellevue should be in the talk of winning state,” Johnson said.
So far, the Islanders have qualified all three relays to the state meet and five individuals have met the standards, including freshman Dave Conger in the 500 freestyle.
Senior Sam Chong has qualified for state in the 100 breaststroke, while juniors Noah Deiparine, Duncan Kootz and Andrew Weiss have qualified in multiple events.
“I feel good, but we’ve got work to do,” Johnson said. “I think that they are still seasoned but young all at the same time. In past have, we’ve had really strong seniors score the majority of the points for us. That’s not going to be the case this year. It’s going to take everybody in all classes. They’re still getting used to that.”
Issaquah no surprise this time
Issaquah coach Laura Halter is pleased with her team’s 3-1 start this season as it looks to leave another lasting impression in the KingCo.
The Eagles finished second at the 4A state meet behind Stadium last season after edging Newport by 1.5 points to win the Sea-King District championship.
Second was Issaquah’s best finish.
“Last year was such a huge surprise to me how successful they became,” Halter said. “Each meet, I became more and more impressed with what the boys were capable of. Beating Newport by one-and-a-half points was a sweet deal. All that did was get my boys really pumped up for state.”
Although Issaquah’s top swimmer, Brian Ruggles, graduated and is now at Pacific Lutheran University, the Eagles still returned three-time state qualifiers Austin Melody and Willy Matsuda. They join 2012 state participants Gabe Florsheim and Ben Nussbaum to make a formidable group to lead this year’s team.
Freshmen Jason Klein and Alex Sun are new additions making an impact. Nussbaum’s twin brother, Keith, also has improved this season.
Issaquah faces Newport on Jan. 22 in a dual meet that should determine one 4A divisional winner in the KingCo. Issaquah defeated Newport by one point in their dual meet last season.
Following the format used in girls swimming in the fall, the KingCo is made up of two 4A-3A combined divisions. Four teams, the top 4A and 3A finishers in each division, will face off in the conference dual meet championships.
Eastlake off to fast start
Eastlake is 6-0 to start the season and is gearing up for a date against KingCo rival Redmond on Tuesday.
Four-time state champion Edward Kim already has qualified for the 4A state meet in the 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle, 200 Individual Medley and 100 backstroke. Kuroshe Mahak has met qualifying standards in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, while Jackson Berman has qualified in the 500 freestyle.