Swimmers finding strength in youth

After saying goodbye to the best swimmer in Bainbridge High School history, coach Greg Colby is rebuilding, and reloading with promising freshmen. 

“We lost 12 seniors last year, and they were all point-getters,” Colby said. “And we lost the fastest swimmer in state history in Emily Silver. That’s a hard act to follow, but this year’s team is doing a good job of it. 

“We’re younger, smaller and we have chances to be at the top end in a lot of events.” 

Although Bainbridge lost to reigning state swim champ Belle­vue High School 102-68, and Snohomish High School 91-79 in a three-way meet at the University of Washington last Saturday, Col­by said the stiff competition brought out some good performances.

Several Bainbridge swimmers have state qualifying times already this season, but on Saturday three posted personal bests in the 200 IM. Freshman Isabel Williams came in first with 2:15.04, freshman Tessa Griffin was fourth with 2:19.03 – just a half-second off state qualifying time – and Katie Hallet was sixth with 2:26.20.

Williams also had a 55.96 state qualifying time leading off the 400 relay.

“The good competition provided an intensity that challenged the girls and took them to the next level,” Colby said. “They were really in great spirits.”

Senior Sarah Gleason, defending state champion in the 200 and 500 free, won the 500 with a time of 5:13.05 and also had her fastest time this season in the 200 free with 1:57.02.

Although Gleason hasn’t swum the 500 in under five minutes, she thinks that’s what it might take this year to win the event at State. 

“I’m trying to shave off seconds at every meet,” she said.  “My goal is to win both events.  I’d like to do the 200 in 1:50 or faster, and the 500 in 4:57 or faster.”

Another bright spot Saturday was Williams’ 1:01.24 state qualifying time in the 100 back, an event she swam for the first time this season. 

Although Williams has created something of a stir around the Bainbridge pool this season, Colby keeps the focus squarely on the team.

“Swimming is an individual sport, but at the high school, we emphasize the team,” he said.  “We represent the school and the community, and we work hard to make sure everyone understands that. As a team, our goal is to place in the top three in the state every year, and our kids rise to that expectation.”

Leadership has always been key, and this year is no different with three captains at the helm – seniors Gleason and Erin Clune, and junior Hallett. 

“We lost people (seniors) who had been there forever,” Gleason said, “and I think now the freshmen are realizing they really have to step up.” 

Clune had knee surgery last Friday to correct a chronic patella problem and is out for the season.  “She still provides a lot of leadership, and is hoping to be ready for spring water polo,” Colby said.

“Katie Hallet is a hugely important part of the team,” he said.  “Last year, she was kind of in the shadow of a great senior class (including sister Brooke), and she is a solid swimmer in all four strokes. She’s off to a great start, she’s a state scorer, and one of the top two candidates for relay.” 

Senior Cassie Pan is another strong contributor in the 200 and 400 relays. 

“She’s a hard worker and a great kid; she’s earned the respect of her teammates,” Colby said.

There’s no doubt, however, that youth is a strength for the Spartans this year. 

Freshman Keziah Beall took first in the 100 free last Friday in the Spartans’ 102-71 home meet win over Eastmont, and “will be a contender in at least a couple of events,” Colby said.  Freshman Tessa Griffin is also expected to qualify in the 100 fly and the 50 free. 

Returning junior Stephanie Whalen heads up the diving squad this season, along with experienced sophomore Bridget Butler and freshman Shelby Mann.  At home against Eastmont, Whalen won the event with a score of 242.7.  Saturday’s meet did not include diving. 

The schedule is tough this year, with a meet Oct. 8 that pits Bainbridge against rival Mercer Island and a strong West Valley, Yakima team.  

Even so, the hardest going might be this week. 

“By the time Oct. 2 rolls around, we’ll have had five meets in 12 days,” he said.  “We’re just trying to recover in between.”

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