Zora Opalka admits she’s making up for lost time.
The top diver on Bainbridge High’s girls varsity swimming and diving team, Opalka won this year’s Metro title and added a bit more shine to her crown by claiming first in last weekend’s SeaKing District 2 Championships.
Now the Spartan senior is prepping for a return trip to the 3A Girls Swimming &Diving Championships, which start Friday at the King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way.
It wasn’t this way last year.
Last season, the Metro League record-holder in diving watched from the side of the pool as her Spartan teammates competed; Opalka was sidelined with a knee injury.
“This Monday marks the one-year anniversary of me being healed from an injury that actually took me out for like four months,” she recalled.
“It’s like I’m kind of living my junior year a little bit,” Opalka said.
It’s a weird feeling, she admitted.
“But it’s also that much sweeter because last year, it was kind of pulled from beneath my feet. So I finally get a moment to kind of redeem myself in my own head, and also for the team.”
Opalka will walk into the state meet as the No. 1 seed — up more than 20 points from the No. 2 seed — which carries a weight of its own.
“If I do as well as I hope I can do, I’ll be the first diver ever out of Bainbridge Island to win a state title,” Opalka said. “Which is insane, considering how long the swimming program has been on the island.”
Eight other Spartans will compete in individual events.
Hannah Tonsmann will race in the 200-yard freestyle, and the 500-yard freestyle. Carina Laukaitis will join her teammate in the 500 free.
Lauren Witty and Moorea Eldon-Everts will both rep the Spartans in the 200-yard individual medley.
Eldon-Everts will also race in the 100-yard backstroke.
Erin Miller will race twice; in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly.
In diving, Bainbridge will send three to compete: Opalka, Cammy Rouser and Jackie Hellmers.
Opalka won the diving competition in last weekend’s SeaKing District 2 Championships with a score of 444.4.
Rouser placed fourth at districts with a score of 356.80, while Hellmers cracked the top 10 by claiming ninth place (300.25).
Other Spartan standouts from the SeaKing Championships included Tonsmann with a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle (1:57.97).
Miller finished seventh for the Spartans in the 50-yard freestyle.
Miller will represent BHS at state as the team’s highest seeded swimmer.
She’ll race as the No. 5 seed in the 100-yard butterfly.
But her coach expects she’ll shave some time off her qualifying time in Federal Way.
“She’s had a great year, really consistent, just dropping time all through the season, swimming faster than she’s ever swum before,” said Spartan Coach Sarah Bullock.
Miller also picked up a wild card berth in the 50-yard freestyle, so she will be swimming in four events at state, Bullock said.
The Spartans will also compete in three relays; the 200-yard medley, and the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle.
The BHS foursome of Lauren Witty, Milena Broom, Moorea Eldon-Everts and Hannah Lee are the 10th seed in the 200-yard medley. They qualified for state with a time of 1:54.25 (Lakeside is the favorite, 1:47.65).
In the 200-yard free, the Spartans enter as the sixth seed with a qualifying time of 1:42.58.
The relay team is made up of Erin Miller, Hannah Lee, Carina Laukaitis and Hannah Tonsmann. (Lakeside also enters as the top seed, 1:40.24).
In the 400-yard free, the relay team of Laukaitis, Miller, Lauren Witty and Tonsmann are the sixth seed (3:41.39). (Bellevue is the team to beat, with a top qualifying time of 3:35.51).
The Spartans aren’t headed to state with the wowser roster seen in previous years.
The team lost 12 swimmers to graduation last year, including eight state qualifiers.
“So it’s a bit of a hole to come out from,” the Spartan coach said.
“But we have this great young team,” Bullock added, with eight freshmen in the ranks and a group overall that’s committed to working hard and together.
The teams that will be tough at state are familiar foes; Lakeside, Bellevue, Mercer Island.
One surprise this year is the high level of competition in the 500-yard freestyle.
With their times this year, Bainbridge swimmers would have entered in the higher spots if the times were comparable to last year. They aren’t, which has dropped those Spartan swimmers further down in seeding.
“A lot of swimmers decided to swim the 500. It’s totally wonky,” Bullock said.
Still, Bainbridge should see faster times at state than they have this season.
“They always tend to have their best race at state,” Bullock said, and their tapering is targeted toward this week’s coming races.
“So I think we’ll see some good drops,” she said.
The state meet will mark Bullock’s first time on deck as head coach. She follows Greg Colby, who retired last season after 24 years at the helm.
“As a first-year coach I’ve made my share of mistakes and they’re just so generous with me,” Bullock said. “It’s been really great.”
“I feel like the team is a lot tighter this year, and that’s a great testament to our captains,” the coach said of Carina Laukaitis, Cammy Rouser and Annabelle Hill.
Much credit is also due, Bullock said, to Assistant Coach Patti Peterson and their volunteers: Bridget Butler, Megan Livingston, Shelby Mann, Theresa Raleigh and Karen Segerson.
For Opalka, there’s the pressure to win it all while also adding to the point total that could put the team on the medal stand again this year.
“A goal for me and everybody else is just to score a lot of points for the team,” she said.
Spectators at the state meet should expect to see one dive in particular from the Spartan standout.
“For the last three meets, I’ve gotten 9s on my back dive pike. Which is, it’s easy but pretty, kind of the money-maker,” Opalka laughed.
“I’m very, very nervous. I feel like there’s a lot riding on it.”
2016 METRO League Girls Swimming and Diving Results
200-YARD MEDLEY RELAY
Sixth: Bainbridge A Relay, 1:59.71
(Laura Murphy, Milena Broom, Moorea Eldon-Everts, Hannah Lee)
(Daisy Bell, Annabelle Hill, Samantha Sinopole)
Seventh: Hannah Tonsmann, 2:00.85
Eighth: Carina Laukaitis, 2:02.49
13th: Mackenzie Chapman, 2:07.53
15th: Zeya Korytko, 2:12.74
Fifth: Lauren Witty, 2:15.32
Seventh: Moorea Eldon-Everts, 2:17.65
13th: Julia Lapin, 2:22.87
15th: Annabelle Hill, 2:24.66
Sixth: Erin Miller, 25.65
Eighth: Hannah Lee, 25.98
21st: Laura Murphy, 27.32
First: Zora Opalka, 409.25
Fifth: Alathea Pippinger, 285.90
Seventh: Jackie Hellmers, 269.80
Second: Erin Miller, 58.96
16th: Daisy Bell, 1:08.41
18th: Annabelle Hill, 1:06.96
19th: Milena Broom, 1:08.87
Seventh: Lauren Witty, 56.11
Eighth: Hannah Lee, 57.38
17th: Laura Murphy, 59.38
Fourth: Hannah Tonsmann, 5:20.22
Seventh: Carina Laukaitis, 5:23.14
14th: Addison Taylor, 5:55.56
17th: Zeya Korytko, 6:02.51
200-YARD FREESTYLE RELAY
Second: Bainbridge A Relay, 1:42.58
(Hannah Tonsmann, Erin Miller, Lauren Witty and Carina Laukaitis)
(Julia Brooks, Mackenzie Chapman and Moorea Eldon-Everts)
Fifth: Moorea Eldon-Everts, 1:03.28
16th: Julia Brooks, 1:10.19
Ninth: Milena Broom, 1:15.83
11th: Daisy Bell, 1:16.41
12th: Julia Lapin, 1:17.14
18th: Addison Taylor, 1:18.12
400-YARD FREESTYLE RELAY
Second: Bainbridge A Relay, 3:43.13
(Carina Laukaitis, Erin Miller, Lauren Witty and Hannah Tonsmann )
(Mackenzie Chapman, Samantha Sinopole, Addison Taylor and Julia Lapin)
SeaKing District 2 Championships Results
200-YARD MEDLEY RELAY
Seventh: Bainbridge A Relay, 1:54.25
(Olivia Dow, Milena Broom, Moorea Eldon-Everts and Hannah Lee)
(Lauren Witty, Daisy Bell, Annabelle Hill and Mackenzie Chapman)
Fifth: Hannah Tonsmann, 1:57.97
10th: Carina Laukaitis, 2:01.05
Fifth: Lauren Witty, 2:15.36
12th: Moorea Eldon-Everts, 2:15.67
Seventh: Erin Miller, 25.41
First: Zora Opalka, 444.40
Fourth: Cammy Rouser, 356.80
Ninth: Jackie Hellmers, 300.25
Third: Erin Miller, 58.51
12th: Lauren Witty, 56.57
Sixth: Moorea Eldon-Everts, 1:03.06
400-YARD FREESTYLE RELAY
Fourth: Bainbridge A Relay, 3:41.39
(Lauren Witty, Carina Laukaitis, Erin Miller and Hannah Tonsmann)
(Addison Taylor, Moorea Eldon-Everts, Laura Murphy and Samantha Sinopole)