Wildcats will try to send coach out on high note
Just six years ago, as the WIAA expanded the swimming opportunities for smaller members with the advent of a separate Class 2A state meet, Archbishop Murphy seized on the opportunity to expand with the state.
The Wildcats added its boys swim program that year, and hired Mike McCloskey to build a winner.
“We had one real swimmer and a bunch of guys that work hard,” McCloskey said this week. “Of the 32 kids that first year, only two of them had ever been off a racing block in their life.”
But McCloskey and his team worked off the principle that anyone, if they go out and train hard, can have success. Since many of his recruits to the new program were members of the successful football program at ATM, there already was a built-in work ethic.
In the second year, the Wildcats placed sixth as a team at the newest state meet.
Fast forward four years – to the present.
Archbishop Murphy has begun its sixth season of boys swimming as the defending 2A state champions. The Wildcats broke through to defeat Sehome, which had won the first four boys 2A titles, 267-237, last February behind senior Alec Barnard and company.
Barnard’s younger brother, Austin, and Stephen Boden contributed mightily as sophomores. And the pair, which won three titles in February – and finished 1-2 in the 500 free – lead the team this season.
But do the Wildcats have enough to make a repeat run?
“I feel like if everything comes together, it will be close,” Austin Barnard said. “It will come down to the wire.”
Loading up two relay teams is key at the 2A level. Good finishes in two of three relay events, along with three or four individuals swimming in two events each, gives a team a chance. And ATM got itself off to a big start in that regard just last Saturday, swimming a 3:29 in the 400 freestyle relay.
That makes the Wildcats the first and only team so far this season to go under the state meet qualifying time in the event.
“That’s kind of interesting in 2A,” McCloskey said. “Because you’re not going against a Mercer Island or something.”
Huge depth isn’t a requirement, then.
But more than two competitors is necessary. Enter the supporting players for the Wildcats, who have two divers returning that placed at state last February, and freshman Anthony Mikhail, who McCloskey said is “definitely on pace to score points at state.”
The race to another title has two notable differences for ATM this time around.
For one, more teams are likely to be in the mix. McCloskey believes it will be a five-team battle come next February, with Steilacoom penciling out as the early favorite. Anacortes, ATM, Hockinson and perennial power Sehome will chase.
But more, this also is McCloskey’s last go-round with the Wildcats. His sixth season as coach will be his last. McCloskey’s son is a seventh-grader who will soon be at Bishop Blanchet.
McCloskey has accepted the job at that 3A school. In fact, he is coaching both schools this season.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve built here,” McCloskey said of his ATM experience. “And now I am moving on to Blanchet. It’s a school that wants to build its program, and I’m excited to take it to the next level.”
As for his Wildcats, while they have known this was their coach’s swan song at the school, it’s not something they’ve discussed.
“I feel like it’s something we’ve all silently thought about,” Boden said. “But nothing that’s been talked about. We all want to send him out on a high note.”
Soni Makes an Appearance
Olympic gold medalist, and 200 breast stroke world record holder Rebecca Soni was in Seattle last weekend. She did a clinic, and spoke to the swimmers at the Bellevue Swim Club, including Archbishop Murphy’s Barnard, who tweeted a shout out to the former USC Trojan on Monday.
“She came and gave her life story,” Barnard said. “It was pretty interesting. It gave me lots to think about. She talked about making sure that you still have fun, even at the big meets.”
Who’s going where?
Army – Michael Stanchi, Bellevue
Georgia Tech – Brian Woodbury, Curtis
Harvard – Edward Kim, Eastlake
Minnesota – Chase Bublitz, Kentridge
Utah – Benjamin Scott, Steilacoom
Wisconsin – Todd McCarthy, Bellevue
Boise State – Monica Bottelberghe, Columbia River; Emma Chard, Foss
Bowdoin – Mariah Rawding, White Salmon
Cal Poly SLO – Caitlin Cox, Mercer Island; Sage Speak, Inglemoor
Michigan – Carolyn McCann, Gig Harbor
New Mexico – Morgan Ginnis, Arlington
Northwestern – Anna Keane, Meadowdale
Texas A&M – Lisa Bratton, Richland
USC – Hannah Weiss, Mercer Island (does not swim for school)
Utah – Shayla Archer, Bainbridge; Megan Kawaguchi, Mount Rainier
WSU – Hannah Bruggman, Wenatchee
Wheaton College (Ill.) – Kayla Roberson, Inglemoor
Yale – Heidi VanderWel, Monroe
Know a swimmer who has committed to a college? Email Doug Drowley at email@example.com.