FEDERAL WAY — It wasn’t victory that was so sweet for Shayla Archer, but what was yet to come.
Archer won the state title in the 100-yard backstroke at the 3A Girls State Swim and Dive Championships at the King County Aquatic Center of Saturday.
The new 3A champ said there were two things she was looking forward to after her win.
“The most exciting part about being champion - I got to cut my fingernails and eat sugar again,” said Archer, a junior on the Spartans girls swim team at Bainbridge High.
“Well, that’s about how much I won by,” she explained. “I was growing them out. I hadn’t cut them for about two weeks.”
“It was awful. Because I’m a nail-biter,” Archer laughed.
Archer won the race in 56.18, an incredible improvement over her preliminaries time of 59.28.
The time is amazing for another reason as well.
Just as Archer finished the race, Spartans Coach Greg Colby rushed up from the sidelines and climbed onto the starter’s block in Archer’s lane. Kneeling down over the water from his precarious perch, he began yelling through a broad grin at the newly minted champion.
“I told her that she’s the fastest 100 backstroker in Bainbridge history,” Colby latter recalled.
Indeed. Archer had shattered the Bainbridge school record in the 100, a mark of 56.42 set by legendary local swimmer Helen Silver in 2000.
“Silver held the record, and she’s the 2006 NCAA Champion in the 200 backstroke,” Colby noted.
“That’s quite an accomplishment,” the Spartan coach said of Archer’s achievement.
“She told me in the middle of the season, ‘What do you think it’s going to take to win? I’d like to win the event.’
“And I said, ‘Well, I think you’re definitely going to have to break the school record to win.’ And then she broke it by over half a second. She’s awesome,” he said.
It was just one of many impressive moments at this year’s state meet.
The BHS team of Archer, Ani Duni, Anna Peirano and Sarah Grundman also won the state title in the 200-yard medley relay, and broke the 3A meet record for that event in the process.
Grundman also successfully defended her state crown in the 500-yard freestyle. Grundman also broke the 5-minute barrier and her own school record in the event.
As a team, the Spartans finished in second place with 303 points. Mercer Island, the defending champ, took the team title for the fourth year in a row with 376 points.
Grundman, a senior on the team, won the 500 freestyle last year in 5:04.25.
Getting under 5 minutes was a goal, she said.
“Ever since I got under 10, it was in my eye. It wasn’t until last year that I knew that I could do it,” Grundman said.
“I just came into this season knowing that I was going to try to swim in college, so going under 5 would help me with that. And I just wanted to do it.”
She faced serious contenders, however. Also in the running, Addie Chambers from Lakeside, the number-two finisher, and fellow Bainbridge swimmer Kay Sterner, who placed seventh last year as a junior.
Sterner had finished in 5:06.67 to qualify for state, while Chambers had notched a time of 5:05.21.
In prelims, Chambers had a time of 5:03.15, while Sterner was third with 5:08.44.
“Both Addie Chambers and Kay went out kind of fast, and kind of worried me at districts,” Grundman recalled.
“But I knew I had a goal going in. I just wanted to swim my race the way I had planned.
“Sometimes swimmers get tired in the middle of the race, and then when I started to gain on them, it was kind of a confidence boost to keep improving and getting faster,” Grundman said. “And then I tried to bring it home as hard as I could.”
Grundman repeated as the 500 freestyle champ Saturday with a time of 4:58.40. Chambers was second in 5:03.15, and Sterner again came in third at 5:08.44.
Colby said Sterner had hoped to get an early lead, and hold it, against her teammate.
“Kay came to me before the race and said, ‘I’m thinking about a different strategy, what do you think?’
“I said, ‘Hey, it’s your last swim, do whatever you want.’ So she took out really fast. She was starting to put those guys off their game a little bit.
“It didn’t really work with Sarah,” the coach added. “She just stayed calm and stayed on her pace.”
The race also saw the Spartan coach become perhaps his most animated during the state meet, as the arena echoed with his loud whistles and yells as he egged Grundman on.
“I knew that she wanted to break that 5-minute barrier. And we were right on it; I just didn’t want her to fall off the pace at all,” he said.
“She had a second and a half of leeway there,” Colby said with a laugh. “But that’s still not very much.”
The Spartans were also unequaled in the 200-yard medley relay.
Bainbridge won the event in 2011 with a time of 1:49.16, and the team of Archer, Duni, Peirano and Grundman successfully defended the crown in Saturday’s first event.
The Spartans finished in 1:47.75 — beating the meet record of 1:47.88 set by Kennedy High set in 2008.
Duni, a freshman on the team, was racing in the biggest race of her life.
She said it was an honor for her to swim on the relay team with the older Spartans.
“I was really nervous,” she added. “All these things were going through my head; what if I false start, what if I get DQ’d?
“But I think I swam the best I could possibly swim. I just went out and did what I could do,” she said.
Duni remembered the coach’s pep talk on the ferry ride to the mainland, how he told the team to swim with reckless abandon.
“I was thinking of his words, ‘Just swim out of control.’ And that’s what I tried to do,” Duni said.
The Spartans also medaled in other relay races.
Bainbridge won second place in the 200-yard freestyle.
Duni, Amanda Comeau, Archer and Mikelle Ackerley finished in 1:39.07, just behind first-place finisher Mercer Island.
Bainbridge also took third place in the 400-yard freestyle.
Ackerley, Candice Rosen, Sterner and Grundman finished in 3:39.02.
Mercer Island claimed the top spot in 3:33.41, while Hanford was second in 3:36.90.
The strong showing in the relays left the Bainbridge coaching staff impressed.
“I can’t remember the last time we were in the top three in all three relays. It was great,” Colby said.
Other Spartans also had standout individual performances.
Sterner was sixth in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:55.76, while Ackerley was seventh in 1:58.33.
Geneva Levy finished ninth for Bainbridge in 1:57.82.
In the 200-yard individual medley, Grundman finished in eighth place with a time of 2:10.89.
Archer was ninth in 2:08.55, and teammate Anna Peirano was 12th with 2:12.67.
Duni placed 11th in the 50-yard freestyle, with a time of 25.17. Comeau was 13th in 25.50.
Shannon Engelbrecht, who finished sixth at state last year in 1-meter diving as a junior, won third place with 16 points.
Ashley Knox from Kennedy finished first with 20 points, while Meg Lindsay of Mercer Island was second with 17.
In the 100-yard butterfly, Periano took eighth place for Bainbridge in 58.47, while Rosen was 11th in 59.74.
In the 100-yard freestyle, Geneva Levy claimed the 10th spot in 54.89, while Ackerley was 11th in 54.90.
Ackerley also placed in the 100-yard backstroke, and finished in 15th with a time of 1:02.94.
In the 500-yard freestyle, Rosen, a Spartan freshman, was ninth in 5:12.22.
Duni also came in fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke. She finished in 1:07.20.
The team’s champion said they would remember the meet in different ways.
For Grundman, she recalled looking up to the cheering crowd at the finish.
“It’s an amazing feeling. It’s a great rush,” she said “ I was so happy and so tired.”
Archer said she’d never forget her coach coming up after her race, yelling that the record she’d long held in the back of her mind was now her own.
The swimmer recalled walking past the large display of record holders at the Ray Williamson Pool on Bainbridge Island every day, and seeing Silver’s name up there on the wall.
“I have been walking past that record on my way to school for forever,” she said. “I was really, really wanting it.”
The prize even made it’s way onto her goal sheet for the season.
She recalled the end of the race Saturday, and what happened after she touched the wall, long fingernails and all.
“I looked up at the board. I turned around and I heard Greg, ‘You are the fastest backstroker in Bainbridge history!’
“It kind of made me teary,” she said.