Sports

Young Spartans focus on freestyle relay

Current state qualifiers (top left, clockwise): Sarah Grundman, Kay Sterner, Kayla Estes, Emily Sonnenfeld, Cameo Hlebasko and Tess Harpur. The team travels to Mercer Island today to compete in districts. - Brad Camp
Current state qualifiers (top left, clockwise): Sarah Grundman, Kay Sterner, Kayla Estes, Emily Sonnenfeld, Cameo Hlebasko and Tess Harpur. The team travels to Mercer Island today to compete in districts.
— image credit: Brad Camp

Despite their young roster, the Spartans’ swim and dive team heads into the district meets this weekend with plenty of experience.

“They’ve become more focused as a group,” coach Greg Colby said. “We were a group of individuals who had different goals. I think the most growth I’ve seen is their intensity and focus at competitions, which is good since this is the best time of the season for that to come together.”

Freshman Sarah Grundman credits the team morale to team-building activities.

“At the beginning of the season we had this really great couple days and bonded as a team,” she said. “We had a sleepover, and it was fun to meet the older swimmers and be accepted into high school swim.”

The swim meet preliminary rounds begin at Mercer Island at 4:30 p.m. Friday, and the top 12 finishers will advance to Saturday’s final. The top four finishers in each event will advance to state.

Three Spartan swimmers have already qualified for the state meet.

Sophomore Tess Harpur qualified for the 200-meter individual medley and the 100-meter butterfly while Grundman and freshman Kay Sterner have qualified for the 200-meter freestyle and the 500-meter freestyle.

“It’s kind of an unusual season for us,” Colby said. “We were down in numbers and quite frankly we were down in talent a little bit.”

The Spartans were 5-5 in dual meets, but usually don’t lose more than three meets a season, Colby said.

“Our goal is still to place as high as possible as a team at state, but I guess the challenge for me as a coach is to figure out how to do that,” he said. “We often qualify all three relays in the first week of competition. It changes my strategy quite a bit.”

The Spartans, who have already qualified their 200-meter medley and 400-meter freestyle relays, will focus on the 200-meter freestyle relay this weekend. Like individual events, relay teams must place in the top four at district to advance to state.

“We would normally try to swim our strongest three relays at district,” Colby said. “We’ll have to ‘give up’ a relay and swim our second tier kids so we can try to qualify our 200 (meter) relay.”

Mercer Island, Juanita and Bellevue will be the Spartans’ toughest competitors, Colby said.

“We’re against a really tough district, because I know when we’re swimming at districts, it’s usually the same teams beating us at state,” junior Emily Sonnenfeld said.

Freshman Lilia Paul is the only Spartan competing in the district dive competition this weekend at Juanita.

“It’ll be an experiment for me,” Paul said. “I never thought iId make it to districts. I always thought I’d make it the second year or third year.”

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