The Spartans’ championship 200-yard freestyle relay team: Xaveria Rodriguez, Hannah Lee, Hannah Tonsmann and Margaret Hayes. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bullock)

The Spartans’ championship 200-yard freestyle relay team: Xaveria Rodriguez, Hannah Lee, Hannah Tonsmann and Margaret Hayes. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bullock)

Spartan swimmers win two titles at State

Margaret Hayes went from heartbreak to hero pretty darn fast.

But Hayes, a freshman at Bainbridge High, wasn’t the only super speedy Spartan at this year’s Washington 3A Girls State Swimming & Diving Championships last weekend in Federal Way.

Hayes won the state title in the 100-yard butterfly, and she joined teammates Xaveria Rodriguez, Hannah Lee and Hannah Tonsmann to claim the state championship in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Overall, the Spartans won fourth place among all 3A teams.

“It was great,” Coach Sarah Bullock said of her winning Spartans.

“The kids worked really, really hard all season,” she said. “It was 12 weeks of really pushing them and I felt like they gelled as a team.”

Hayes, who went into the meet as the Spartans’ ironman, made it to the top of the winners’ platform first for Bainbridge, after a seemingly convincing win in the 200-yard individual medley.

Hayes scorched the competition, and finished nearly 3 seconds in front of Ryle Siripipat of Bellevue. And Hayes’ mark of 2:03.09 was an All American consideration time.

Her time as the state champ in the event was short-lived, however.

After the winners were named, then came the sour announcement that Hayes had been disqualified from the race.

Judges determined that Hayes had a non-simultaneous touch on the wall when she turned from the breaststroke to the freestyle leg of the race.

“You have to touch both hands at the same time,” the Spartan coach noted.

“She dominated the entire race,” Bullock added. “It was just totally deflating. She won and had her best time — an All American consideration time — but it got pulled back.”

Bullock said she was impressed by Hayes’ quick recovery, though.

“She was obviously upset. She went in, she warmed down, and she came out of the warm-down pool and was just like all business again; smiling for her teammates,” the coach said.

In her next race, three events later, Hayes won her first high school title in the 100-yard butterfly, finishing with an All American consideration time of 55.04, well in front of second-place Valeri Berreto of Garfield (56.83).

“She was ahead the whole time, never looked back. She was just so dominant,” Bullock said.

Hayes said the disqualification hurt, but was motivation for her next race.

“It stung a little bit,” Hayes said.

“Going into my 100 fly, I was really motivated: ‘I’m going to try my hardest in this. I’m not going to let it ruin my next event,’” she recalled.

That lost title was a turnaround for the entire team, Bullock said. The Spartans were aiming for a top five finish at state, and the loss of those points was perilous.

“It was a galvanizing moment for everybody,” Bullock said.

“The rest of the team had to step up, because that was 20 points we lost, and it was going to be a close state meet anyway,” she said. “To lose 20 points is a big swing, so everybody had to step up.”

And step up, the Spartans did. Rodriguez helped lead the way.

“She was seeded 18th in the 100 free, and she came out of that race in ninth, which was an eight-point swing right there,” Bullock noted.

Spartan diver Jackie Hellmers then claimed fifth place.

“Her goal was to be top five, and she was,” Bullock said. “I don’t even think she qualified for state her freshman year, so to go out in fifth in state was amazing.”

On her last dive, a front pike, Hellmers was awarded four 8.5s.

“It was just beautiful,” the coach said.

The rafter-rattling race at the King County Aquatics Center proved to be the 200-yard freestyle that gave the Spartans their second state title of the day.

Hayes again was the hero, swimming the anchor leg in a come-from-behind win over rival Lakeside.

Bainbridge won in 1:36.73, an All American consideration time and a new school record.

Lakeside was two-tenths of a second behind, touching the wall at 1:36.91, also an All American consideration time.

“I just had total confidence they were going to win the whole time,” Bullock said — even though the anchor swimmer for Lakeside, Nathalie Valdman, dove into the pool first on the last leg and was swimming for the win.

“Even though Margaret was diving in behind, I just knew she could do it,” Bullock said. “It was very close; she touched her out and it was awesome. They just smashed it.”

A quick moment of silence followed the end of the race as all eyes turned to the scoreboard to see who had won. And the Spartans swimmers found out they were the champs when Bainbridge’s huge cheering section erupted in the stands.

Rodriguez said her mind was blank, except for one thought: “You just need to race your heart out.”

“When I was swimming the race, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was like, ‘I just got to go!’” Rodriguez said.

“When it was my turn to go in, I knew it was going to be really close at the finish,” Hayes added. “I was just going to give it my all.”

“Seeing the scoreboard, seeing that we got first, it was really cool,” she said.

It was a special race especially for Lee and Tonsmann, who placed third in the 200 free relay as sophomores on the team and second place last year, as juniors.

“We always kind of felt like the underdog to Lakeside,” Tonsmann said. “So when [Hayes] touched the wall first, it seemed very unbelievable. And very exciting because we knew that all of our practice had paid off.”

As thrilling as that race was, Lee said it wasn’t what she would remember most about her final trip to State as a Spartan.

Instead, she’ll remember her teammates, coaches and the many, many supporters on Bainbridge.

“All the numbers kind of fade way,” Lee said.

Bullock also got an impressive nod from her fellow swim coaches, and was named Coach of the Year at the meet.

“Sarah Bullock is a phenomenal swim coach in every way! She has great technical knowledge, truly cares for her student-athletes and pushes them to be their best possible self,” said BHS Athletic Director Kaycee Taylor. “Her program is consistently successful and that is in no short order due to her leadership skills and abilities.”

“It was so nice to be given this award by my peers,” Bullock said.

“I think they recognized what a special group of talented, spirited and unified group of athletes we have on this team,” the coach added. “They make me look good!”

Tonsmann said her coach’s honors was her best memory from this year’s state meet.

“When we were coming off the podium and they announced Sarah as the Coach of the Year, I was so happy,” she said.

“It was amazing standing at the top of the podium, but it was even better when our coach who helped us get there got to be recognized.”

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