By Doug Drowley | Special to The Seattle Times
Mercer Island Goes From Hunted to Hunter
The Mercer Island boys swim team refuses to gaze too far away from their own pool these days.
Staying focused on themselves, the Islanders feel, is the best way to reverse the trend of the past two seasons.
“We can only control what we can do,” Mercer Island coach Chauntelle Johnson said. “We stay very focused on that. I’m looking at the fact that we’ve only had a couple of guys leave from the last two years. I have over 20 seniors. They’ve experienced all that the last two years.”
After six consecutive state 3A team titles, Mercer Island has finished a close second to Lakeside each of the past two years. The Lions, in fact, erased a deficit of more than 50 points in a week last February – after getting whipped by the Islanders at the district meet – to repeat as champions.
In what could be a three-team race on February 21 and 22 at King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way, the Islanders know the challenge is to take the trophy back to the island.
“Until somebody beats them (the Lions), they are the team to beat,” Johnson said. “But it won’t be for a lack of trying. I know our guys will be ready to race.”
Johnson hesitates to call Lakeside vs. Mercer Island a rivalry, but only because of the negative connotation that derives from the word.
“We have an immense amount of respect for them, and they for us, I think,” Johnson said. “Yeah, there is a little back and forth. But it’s a healthy, respectful competition. Having them as good as they are, it pushes us to be better. The same with Bellevue.”
Ah, the Wolverines.
Bellevue could be the third challenger in this year’s race to the title. The Wolverines scored in every event but diving in 2013, finishing third in 3A.
A year ago, Bellevue even beat Mercer Island in the teams’ dual meet. The renewal of that clash happened on Tuesday this week, with the Islanders eeking out a 93-92 victory.
“We acknowledge their abilities,” Mercer Island senior Noah Deiparine said of the heavy 3A competition. “But at Mercer Island, we don’t try to think about other teams. We focus on ourselves, and what we need to do to get better.”
Mercer Island beat Bellevue despite losing all three relays.
Just a week after the Islanders posted a huge 3:10 in the 4×100 freestyle relay, the team swam just a 3:17.35 on Tuesday, almost a full second slower than Bellevue.
For Andrew Weiss, Deiparine, Ian Caldwell and Brandt Waesche, that will just fuel the fire of another season-long goal. The four have the school and state meet record of 3:06.71 in mind.
“It’s not out of our reach at all,” Deiparine said. “We’ve all been talking about how to get that record. We need everyone performing at their best.”
“They’ve been working really hard,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how close they can get to it. It’s been a goal all season.”
A big finish in the relay could also translate into a big team finish for this big group of Islander seniors who haven’t won the title since their freshman year.
“I’ve seen them grow from 14-year-old boys who had no clue what was going on into men,” Johnson said. “They are young men trying to lead their team.”
Diving Favorites Begin to Emerge
Over the last week, several district diving qualifiers have taken place. If things hold true to form from now until state, 4A favorites likely will be Kentridge’s Brady Shutt, who just won the District 3 qualifier with 372.85 points, and Skiah Garde-Garcia of Garfield, the District 2 qualifier champ at 360.9.
Casey Benson, a 3A freshman from O’Dea, pushed Garde-Garcia to finish second with 355.2.
In 2A, Archbishop Murphy finished first and third in a District 1 qualifier. Elliott Forde (360.85) won the event and Rory Krueger was third (270.20) in a meet that featured 2A heavyweights Anacortes and Squalicum, as well.
Who’s going where?
Army – Michael Stanchi, Bellevue
Colorado Mines – Parick Giedeman, Richland
Birmingham Southern – Caleb Riggs, Peninsula
Georgia Tech – Brian Woodbury, Curtis
Harvard – Edward Kim, Eastlake
Minnesota – Chase Bublitz, Kentridge
Tufts – Morgan Ciliv, Bellevue
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
Pomona – Alex Seidel, Mercer Island
Texas A&M – Lisa Bratton, Richland
USC – Hannah Weiss, Mercer Island (did 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.