Swimmers take districts by storm

When senior Elizabeth Wiggs accepted her Athletic Scholar award – given to those with GPAs of 3.75 or higher – following the diving competition at Saturday’s District 2 swim meet, she thought it would be her only ribbon.

She was wrong.

Pressed into service later in the meet because of injuries to two swimmers, she swam lifetime bests in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays to play a key role as the Spartans squeaked by Bellevue.

With one point separating the two teams going into the concluding 400 free relay, the winner of the event would take home the team trophy.

As expected, Emily Silver jumped off to a big lead. Wiggs – who conceded that she had not swum well the day before in the prelims – scorched her previous best in the 100 by a second and a half with a 57.07 to keep the Spartans in front.

Rokeda Brownell maintained the lead and Helen Silver held off Bellevue’s final swimmer by just over three tenths of a second, as spectators packing the Hazen pool raised the decibel count to nearly glass-shattering levels.

The Spartans finished their inaugural District 2 competition with 221 points to Bellevue’s 214. Mercer Island was third with 183 and Newport had 156.

“I’m still walking around with a smile on my face,” Wiggs said two days after the meet. “This was my most satisfying meet ever. I always felt important as a member of the team, but never for what I actually did as a swimmer. Everyone was giving me high fives, and some people even said that I was the team’s MVP.

“I didn’t even know that I’d be in the 200 relay until about five minutes before, but I made sure that I was warmed up. Then I did some jumping jacks to get my heart rate up.”

Wiggs blasted a 26.3 – more than half a second under her lifetime best – in her leg as she, Melissa Clune, Candace Rodda and Emily Silver placed second in a time of 1:40.87, up two notches from their position in the preliminaries the day before, to gain additional points toward the eventual team title.

“I swam as hard as I could,” Wiggs said, who’s been swimming competitively since she was nine and also helps coach younger members of the Bainbridge Island Swim Club. “I thought it might be my last race ever.”

Coach Greg Colby gave a great deal of credit to Helen Silver, who won the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke – setting a new district record of 56.78 in the latter event – in addition to swimming on two winning relays.

“It’s typical of her that when the chips are down, she always pulls through,” he said. “She’s so focused. She took charge from the beginning of the meet and led the team by her example.”

Emily Silver also won two events, the 50 free and 100 free, and set three district records. Her 23.47 in the prelims of the 50 broke an 11-year-old mark, while she swam 51.25 in the 100 prelims and then 51.24 in the finals to better a 12-year-old standard.

“I don’t think anyone in Washington state history has done as many 51s as Emily has this season,” Colby said. “She has at least seven or eight.”

Other highlights:

* The meet opened with Candace Rodda touching out Newport in the 200 IM by 0.06 of a second. “From 12 yards in, she’s as tough as anyone,” Colby said. The team of Helen Silver, Meredith Blumenthal, Clune and Rodda swam 1:52.15.

* Diver Tessa Mabrey had a lifetime best of 307.55 to place second.

* Clune was third in the 100 fly in 57.96 and third in the 50 free in 25.23.

* Brownell finished fifth in the 100 backstroke in 1:03.66.

“This ranks as one of the top five meets of my coaching career,” said Colby. “Even if we win state, this might be the highlight of our season. The meet itself ran silky smooth, the sportsmanship among the teams was incredible, and we had tremendous team unity and focus. We knew what we had to do for the win.

“Bainbridge has now won the championship in three of the six different districts in the state.”

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