Deck looks stacked in Spartans’ advantage | FALL SPORTS PREVIEW

The season has just gotten started, but the Spartans are already packing the bus for the state girls swimming and diving championships.

Only two weeks into the season — and with wins over Seattle Prep and Roosevelt, and a strong showing at the Spartan Relays in their wake — the Bainbridge High girls swim team has already qualified nine swimmers for the state championships in Federal Way this November.

To say the deck is stacked a bit in the Spartans’ favor may be an understatement.

This team, Spartan Coach Sarah Bullock said, is “super fast.”

“They broke three pool records in the first weekend and a Spartan Relay record; two of the pool records had been there 20 years,” Bullock noted.

The Spartan Relay record — set in the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1996 — was shattered this year by Xaveria Rodriguez, Emma Solseng, Sydney Sorenson and Margaret Hayes.

The other records to fall: the mark set in 2011 in the 100-yard butterfly; and two records from 1999 in the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay. (The fantastic foursome of Rodriguez, Solseng, Sorenson and Hayes broke the 200 free relay record, while the super speedy relay team of Hayes, Solseng, Siena Levan and Rodriguez set the new mark in the 200 medley relay. Hayes — who won the state 3A title in the 100 fly last year as a freshman — broke the pool record in the event.)

“We have some really talented, fast, fast swimmers,” Bullock said.

“They love swimming in our home pool and I think they just went out and said, I think we’re going to break some records,” she added.

Bainbridge lost only three state finalists to graduation, but this year’s team is also bolstered by a quick caboodle of versatile swimmers.

“So that hurt a little bit,” Bullock said of the loss of swimmers Hannah Lee and Hannah Tonsmann and diver Jackie Hellmers.

“But we’ve got a great turnout of new kids and they are fast and they love to race.

“They love to race, which is fun,” Bullock said. “Some kids are like, ‘Ah you know, I like to practice, but I don’t like to race so much.’ And these kids all really like to race.”

This season has seen a huge turnout in interested swimmers and divers, as a matter of fact: 55 in all.

“This is my fourth year coaching and this is my biggest team I’ve had,” Bullock said. “When I started we were at like 41.”

Nearly half of the team is new to the squad, which includes 14 freshman. Some of the upperclassmen new to the team are fresh to the sport, or returning after a long layoff from swimming.

“Pretty much when they started they were novice swimmers and now they’re doing flip turns. It’s pretty cool,” Bullock said of the newbies.

The Spartans expect to excel in relay races this year, but the team packs plenty of depth throughout the roster.

“We are strong in every event. Every event,” the coach said.

“The relays and all the strokes,” Bullock noted. “We have great stroke coverage. We’re going to have a great medley relay.”

The coach said the team’s talents bode well for reaching the medal platform at the state championships in the medley relay; a top-eight finish that has eluded Bainbridge in recent years.

“We haven’t been on the podium in the medley relay since I started coaching. And this year we can totally get on the podium at state,” Bullock said.

In diving, Bainbridge has returning state qualifier Bryn Tiernan, now a sophomore.

“She’s been practicing a lot this summer; she dove a lot. She’s looking really good,” Bullock said.

A new addition on deck is dive coach Gina Weibel, who was a collegiate diver.

“She has just kind of opened up diving,” Bullock said, adding that the team has been bolstered by a bunch of athletes looking to try diving.

Two Spartans have qualified as varsity divers, and Bullock said Weibel thinks a couple more will be added to the lineup in the coming weeks.

The Spartan coaching staff also includes assistant Shelly Reimer and volunteers Kristine Cox, Megan Livingston and Krista Pal. Remier, Livingston and Pal all swam for the Spartans — and Livingston and Pal still have their names on the record board at Bainbridge’s Ray Williamson Pool.

The team is led by senior captains Milena Broom, Moorea Eldon-Everts, Zeya Korytko and Jillian Webb.

“They’re super leaders; always talking, always encouraging. They’ve grown so much in terms of leadership,” Bullock said.

The bellwether this season will be the matchup against Lakeside, which is also the last meet of the year, on Oct. 25.

And the Lions are looking for payback.

“Last year, we won by 2 points. It was incredibly exciting,” Bullock recalled.

“We would love to do that again, but Lakeside is guns out for us. They did not like losing to us,” she said.

The Metro Championships are Nov. 1-Nov. 2, and after districts, the Spartans head to the state finals.

Bullock said the team hopes to move up from its fourth-place finish in 2018. And the Spartans expect to face a familiar trio at the top: Bellevue, Lakeside (again) and Lake Washington.

“They will be strong,” Bullock said. “Those four teams will be at the top again and we’ll just be fighting, scraping, going back and forth.”