Defending champ Newport won’t concede title easily
By Doug Drowley
Special to The Seattle Times
What Drew Whorley’s Jackson Timberwolves would like to pull off in five weeks, Eric Bartleson’s Newport Knights accomplished just a year ago.
During the 2013-14 school year, Newport swept the girls and boys 4A state swimming team titles. Jackson and Richland dethroned the Knights girls back in November.
On the boys side, Bartleson still is figuring out what exactly he’s got as the regular season is winding down. With just a couple of weeks left, for instance, Newport, which competes in Class 4A, will swim a duel meet against a 4A team for the first time on Thursday: Issaquah.
The Knights face another potential contender next Thursday: Skyline.
Those will be the only two 4A schools the Knights face before the KingCo league meet once the post-season gets underway.
“It’s been a little bit of a slow season,” Bartleson said. “We only have seven meets this year. KingCo lost three teams to Metro.”
Newport lost a couple of times early in the schedule, including to 3A contender Mercer Island. But Bartleson sees things coming along.
“Classifications don’t matter in swimming so much,” Bartleson said. “And the boys are slowly getting it together.”
The Knights have potential individual winners to lead the way.
Senior captain Andrew Pana, and juniors David Machevaks and Will Dittig will headline Newport’s repeat effort. Makhervaks has the second-best 4A seed time currently in the 100 butterfly, and the top 100 back time. Senior Ian Weiss also should place well.
Dittig will compete in the 100 free and 100 back.
“Those guys, along with Andrew, give us a pretty strong group,” Bartleson said.
Diver Oey Chang is the top returner in 4A from last year’s state meet. And then there are a couple of freshmen that could make waves in Andrew Wang and Martin Lui.
“We’re looking to see if we can get Andrew (Wang) into the breaststroke, and see if Martin can get into the 500,” Bartleson said. “He still has got to drop some time.”
Just recently, two of Newport’s three relays earned state qualifying times – in the 200 medley and 400 free relays. The 400 relay team also has the top seed in 4A at 1:40.83.
“And that was done at 10:30 at night,” Bartleson said. “That’s what happens when we have those late start meets.”
Newport shares pool time over at Mercer Island’s Mary Wayte pool. The boys, like the girls, have only an outdoor pool to train in – even in the winter.
“We have these days when it’s 25 degrees out, raining out,” Bartleson said. “They have to push through all that.”
On the positive side, Newport gets battle tested before the state meet in more ways than one.
“There are chances for the boys to learn and grow,” Bartleson said. “We want to give them the best opportunity that we can, to do the best they can at the end of the season.”
This winter, things could be fairly wide open in 4A.
Along with Newport and Jackson, Kamiak, Issaquah and Eastlake just from Districts 1 and 2 could make runs.
“The state meet is a little bit wide open,” Bartleson said. “We still have a lot of talent on this team.We’ll see if that is enough to win.”