By Doug Drowley | Special to The Seattle Times
Newport plays the reluctant favorite
Eric Bartleson isn’t ready to anoint his Newport Knights yet.
That hasn’t kept others this winter from repeatedly trying to install Newport as the favorite to win the 4A state meet on Feb. 21 and 22.
“Newport is the favorite,” Issaquah coach Laura Halter said. “The thing about Newport is all three relays can be in the Top 8. I don’t know who else can do that.”
Relays, of course, count double points. Most contending teams bring enough solid swimmers to the state meet to have the choice over which two of the 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 free relays to compete in heavily.
Even Bartleson admits his situation this season is advantageous.
“We’ve got some strength there,” Bartleson said. “to throw up three good relays.”
The guys to lead the way are James Campbell, a senior captain, junior Andrew Panna, and sophomores Will Dittig, Dave Makhervaks, and Aaron Elhajj.
Between them, those five also will compete for top spots in seven of the eight individual events. Add rapidly improving diver Oey Chan to the mix and the Knights have the depth to score in virtually every event at state.
“Oey didn’t know three dives when he started two years ago,” Bartleson said. “And now I think he’s one of the top divers in the state. It’s been huge to see him get better.”
Still, Bartleson is cautious.
“I don’t know,” Bartleson said. “We haven’t done it yet. I have trouble putting us in as the favorite when we haven’t won that state meet yet.”
Newport never has won a boys state title in swimming. If the Knights do so next week, though, the school will hold both the boys and girls titles at the same time.
Yes, Bartleson’s girls team won the 4A championship last November. Newport whipped runner-up Wenatchee, 232-169.5, to defend its girls title from 2012.
The boys race promises to be closer.
The defending champion, Kamiak, is young this year. But Bartleson doesn’t count it out. Gig Harbor and Curtis bring large teams to state. And Newport will get a close-up look at the team that may be its chief competition – Issaquah – again this weekend at the Sea-King District meet at the University of Washington.
Earlier this season, the Eagles actually beat the Knights in their KingCo dual meet.
“After our dual meet, Eric called me and told me he’d removed me from his wedding list,” said Halter, who is a close friend of Bartleson’s.
Bartleson is getting married this summer.
“It was a joke,” Bartleson said.
Of course, but the Eagles and Knights could be the two jockeying for the championship come Feb. 22.
“She’s got a great medley relay there,” Bartleson said of Halter’s team. “And I don’t know how much they fall off in that third relay. It’s a good competition, a good strong rivalry.
“One of the goals our kids made at the start was to finish better than last year. Whether that’s first or second, I don’t know. I’m hoping Newport can come out on top there. But it’s really up to how the boys swim that week.”
Wright is right for Kentwood
Just how it will translate to state, who knows?
But Kentwood’s Brian Wright had a good day for the Conquerors at the West Central District meet on Saturday. As part of Kentwood’s 200 medley relay team, Wright helped the Conquerors qualify for state with a new school record in the event – 1:42.07.
Wright then went out and dropped times and rose places in each of his individual events – the 100 and 200 frees. He dropped more than two seconds off his 200 free time, to place second in 1:47.6, then rose from a seventh seed to fourth in the 100 free – at 49.52 seconds.
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
Whitman – Keith Nussbaum, Issaquah
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
Missouri S&T – Nate Endebroeck, Mead
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.