Swim team takes second at state finals

Last Friday’s Girls 2A/3A Swimming and Diving Championships ended with Bainbridge finishing second to Bellevue, 227 to 232.

But it’s difficult to associate a team performance that produced three school records, three automatic high school All-American performances and six others that qualified for “consideration” status, an all-time 2A/3A state best and a host of lifetime best swims with the word “loss.”

“I didn’t feel upset by the end of the meet,” said sophomore Emily Silver, who was named co-swimmer of the meet. “We were winners even though we finished second.”

“It was really just a fun meet,” added her sister Helen.

The “fun” actually began the day before in the prelims. Emily had a quadrafecta in the 50 free – her 23.42 was a personal best, all-time 2A/3A meet best, school record and automatic All-American time. Her 50.58 an hour later produced a trifecta – personal best by nearly a second, school record and automatic All-American time. It was also just .04 off the all-time 2A/3A best. And when she saw her time on the scoreboard, her smile of joy was clearly visible in the furthest reaches of the cavernous structure.

In Friday’s finals, the Silvers had a hand in 189 of the team’s points in their final meet together. After seven years of swimming together with the Bainbridge Island Swim Club and later the Spartan varsity, Helen will leave to begin what should be a stellar collegiate career next fall.

But they made their last high school swim together – the meet’s final event, the 400 free relay – a memorable one.

Short of a disqualification or leg cramp, Bellevue had amassed enough points to ensure the top team trophy. So the relay was essentially a swim for pride. And the outcome provided plenty for everyone involved.

Emily swam her third sub-51-second 100 of the meet to give the team a slim lead over Anacortes and a half-pool-length margin over Bellevue. Rokeda Brownell – competing despite a knee injury – and Joy Miller both swam well to maintain the Spartans’ marginal advantage, with Miller dead even for much of her leg before pulling ever so slightly ahead on the final few strokes.

Helen Silver, facing off against one of the finalists in the earlier 100 free in the anchor leg, quickly broke the race open as the Spartan senior blasted a 52:02 anchor leg.

The team’s overall time of 3:35.12 broke a seven-year-old school record and also qualified for All-American consideration. Bellevue, which had the best seed time coming into the meet, coasted home in third.

Anacortes was also a thorn in the Spartan side in Friday’s opening event. Versatile Rebecca Sturdy – who later won the title in the 100 fly and finished second to Helen Silver in the 100 back – swam virtually even with Silver in the opening backstroke leg.

After Bainbridge dropped to fourth in the breaststroke, Melissa Clune’s butterfly leg brought the Spartans back into a virtual three-way tie at the top. But Anacortes touched just ahead of the Spartans at the finish of the freestyle leg, clocking 1:50.93 to Bainbridge’s 1:51.09.

Bellevue was fifth, but took the overall lead by scoring 21 points in the next event, the 200 free, as no Spartan was entered in the event.

Helen Silver swam a lifetime best 2:06.57 in the 200 IM for second behind co-swimmer of the meet Katie Willis of John F. Kennedy to reduce the scoring gap. Her time qualified for All-American consideration.

The Spartans surged ahead in the 50 free behind Emily Silver’s 23.44 and Clune’s come-through 24.26 for third place. Clune had been seeded seventh going into Thursday’s prelims and fifth for the finals.

“I’ve never seen her get off the starting block better,” coach Greg Colby said of Clune.

Silver’s time was an automatic All-American time, while Clune’s was under the consideration standard. Bainbridge picked up 36 points in the event to Bellevue’s 21, making the team score at the time 87-81.

Tessa Mabrey added six more points in diving by placing 11th with a score of 254.40.

Miller swam 1:01.11 for fifth in the consolation round of the 100 fly, gaining four points. Clune swam 58.02 – an All-American consideration time – for fourth in the finals to add 15 more points. But a Bellevue swimmer placed second in the event to give the Wolverines 17.

Emily Silver won the 100 free in an automatic All-American time of 50.62 and earned 20 points, but Bellevue was seventh in the finals and second in consolations to score 19.

The Wolverines added another dozen in the 500 free as Bainbridge again had no one entered in the event. That reduced the Spartan lead to three, 132 to 129.

The gamble

Colby took a calculated risk in the 200 free relay, putting Brownell in the second leg even though she was slated to swim in the consolations of the next event, the 100 backstroke.

Bainbridge had qualified more than three seconds slower than Bellevue, but Brownell would provide additional speed and with Emily Silver swimming anchor, he hoped the Spartans might eke out a win.

But Bellevue swam an automatic All-American time of 1:38.06 to win – just .11 off the state’s all-time best – though Silver swam a blazing 22.8 anchor leg to make up more than two seconds and provide an exciting finish. The team’s 1:38.88 qualified for All-American consideration and was just .09 seconds off a seven-year-old school record. Bellevue took a three-point lead at 169-166.

As expected, Helen Silver won the backstroke and her 56.63 was not only an automatic All-American time but also gave her the three top 2A/3A marks in the event. She was ahead by just a head over Sturdy at the halfway mark but pulled away to win by just over a body length. A fatigued Brownell began valiantly but eventually came home last in the consolations to give the Spartans 21 points.

But Bellevue scored 31 by placing fourth and eighth in the finals and fourth in the consolation round.

With neither team having an entrant in the breaststroke, Bellevue’s 13-point lead going into the 400 free relay meant that the Spartans had to win while hoping that Bellevue was sixth or lower.

The two Silvers, Brownell and Miller did their part. But Bellevue also did what they had to do and held on to win the team title.

“We didn’t lose the meet,” Colby said. “They (Bellevue) went out and won it.

“We had an intense dual meet season, a more intense district meet, then a short turnaround for state.

“To come here and come in second by five points – that’s really great.”

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