Spartan swimmer Jude Wenker found himself in a familiar place on Saturday at the King County Aquatics Center: at the top of the winners’ platform, with a first-place medal draped around his neck.
His 3A championship title in the 200-yard freestyle relay also came with something else — a new record.
You could say he got a little boost from the Beatles.
Wenker came into the race as the top seed, and as such, got to pick the “march out” song that’s played to rev up the crowd as the top eight swimmers in the event make their way to the starting blocks.
But just before the start of the 200 free, the second event in last weekend’s 3A Washington State Boys Swimming & Diving Championships, Wenker later admitted he was caught off-guard when asked by an official what song he wanted played over the loud- speakers.
“I should have been thinking about it,” he laughed.
A namesake tune quickly came to mind, however.
Play “Hey Jude,” he said.
And so it began, Wenker’s walk to his first race in his last state meet.
Of the song choice, he said simply: “Better go with a classic.”
What followed was another chart-topping success. Wenker won the 200-yard freestyle and claimed the championship crown with a finals time of 1:38.11 — a new meet record.
Wenker would finish the meet by taking the title in the 100-yard freestyle, and Bainbridge also placed first in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
The Spartan team — which was defending its three-peat state 3A title — finished second in the end to rival Mercer Island.
Mercer Island first with a team-high 313 points, followed by Bainbridge with 289.5, and Bellevue in third, with 232.
Bainbridge brought home a big batch of other medals from Federal Way, as well, and Bainbridge Head Coach Kaycee Taylor was named Coach of the Year.
Andrew Witty, a medalist on the Spartans’ winning 200-yard freestyle relay team, said he was really proud of the team’s effort at State.
“I know a lot of people coming into this season, after we lost all the people we did last year — we had a ton of seniors, really fast seniors, that we lost [to graduation] — people weren’t really optimistic about our state meet,” Witty said.
“We just worked really hard, and there was a really good team effort.
“We got new people swimming who qualified for state in all the relays who we probably would not have expected, coming in to this season. And that was really fun to watch people break out,” Witty added.
“At the beginning of the season our hopes were not super high,” Wenker said.
“But I think everybody swam spectacularly,” he said.
In the meet’s first race, the Spartan foursome of Ian Lipton, Witty, Tyler Stewart and Oskar Bannister claimed third place in the 200-yard medley relay.
The team finished in 1:34.44 — an improvement over their preliminary time of 1:35.68 — but Bellevue also saw a drop in time from Friday’s race to take the title Saturday in 1:33.66.
The Spartans were just .78 of a second from first place, and just .16 of a second from second-place Mercer Island.
Bainbridge came into the race as the fifth seed, so taking third was a noteworthy improvement.
Wenker’s win in the 200 free followed, and two other Spartans made their mark in the consolation race for the 200 free.
In the B Final for the 200 free, Finn Wenker placed 10th with a time of 1:47.34.
Colin McDevitt was also a top finisher in the race for Bainbridge, taking 11th place with a time of 1:47.50.
Witty was second in the 200-yard individual medley, touching the wall at 1:53.29. Nathan Hayes of O’Dea was the 3A champ in the event, with a time of 1:51.37.
It was a top turnaround for Witty, who came into the 200 IM prelims as the fifth seed and a time of 1:57.30. Witty dropped that time down to 1:55.12 in Friday’s preliminary.
Two other Spartans also made it to the medalists’ platform in the event.
Stewart finished sixth, with a time of 1:55.00; and Ian Lipton was eighth, in 1:56.22.
Bainbridge had one swimmer compete in Saturday’s 50-yard freestyle consolation race: Bannister, a Spartan sophomore.
He raced to a tie for 14th place, and drew even with Danny Kahn of Roosevelt with a time of 22.00.
The Spartans had a trio of divers in the competition for Saturday, and Kiernan Liberman — the two-time defending 3A 1-meter diving champ — was edged by last year’s second-place finisher, Isaac Poole of Shorewood.
Poole won the title with a score of 446.65, which dropped Liberman into second place, with 406.70 points.
Brian Taylor of BHS finished fourth in 1-meter diving, with a total of 368.05. Henry Sauermann dove to 11th place for the Spartans, at 275.70.
The fourth Bainbridge diver at State — Guy Weibel — was 19th in the semifinals, with a combined score of 179.00.
Stewart found himself on the winners’ platform again after Saturday’s finals in the 100-yard butterfly.
He finished eighth in the race, with a time of 52.10.
Ben Chapman swam in the consolation race in the 100 fly, and finished second in the B Final for an overall rank of 10th. His time was 52.98, just behind the B Final winner, Raymond Wang of Interlake (52.49).
Jude Wenker’s second championship at State came in the 100-yard freestyle.
The Spartan senior was first with a time of 44.99. (Wenker’s prelim time on Friday was 45.53.)
Also in the race: Bainbridge’s Bannister, who won the seventh-place medal with a finals time of 47.80.
The Spartans also raced in the B Finals for the 500-yard freestyle, with McDevitt finishing in 15th place overall at State with a time of 4:56.43.
Bainbridge won the championship race in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
The Spartan lineup of Stewart, Harrison Villella, Witty and Wenker was first in 1:24.92.
The Spartans won in stunning fashion, with a come-from-behind win thanks to Wenker’s fantastic fourth-leg finish.
“Jude and I knew that we would be able to catch up some ground at the end,” Witty recalled. “I was pretty confident in Jude and myself, that we could get it back.”
“It’s really fun when you come from behind and just win it,” Witty said.
Even so, the race was packed tight, with Gig Harbor and Mercer Island both battling for first.
“Whenever you are behind, it’s a little nerve-wracking. And you see them creeping away and you’re like, ‘Uh-oh.’ Because you don’t really know what other people are going to do. You can assume from what they have done before, but people can sometimes have really great races,” Witty said.
Witty credited Wenker — who turned the fastest leg of any athlete in the event, with a 20.35 — for sealing the deal.
“He really blew everyone else out of the water,” Witty said.
As usual, the Spartans did not go quietly into that good finish, and Bainbridge was boosted by a boisterous bunch of Spartan fans in the stands.
“I just tried to enjoy the moment,” Stewart said.
“It was definitely more pressure than I’ve normally experienced at finals, with all the fans in the stands,” he added.
BHS also picked up more team points in the 100-yard backstroke. Ian Lipton medaled in fifth place, with a finals time of 51.65.
In the B Final, Chapman finished sixth (and 14th overall) with a time of 54.88.
The gut punch of the evening came in the next race, the 100-yard backstroke.
Witty, who entered as the top seed with an All American consideration time of 56.93, was disqualified after the race for a false start.
The fans from arch-rival Mercer Island cheered after the disqualification.
Witty said the violation came when he flinched while in his start position.
“That was very disappointing,” he said.
But it left Bainbridge fired up for its final race.
The backstroke disqualification was a shocker, Wenker said.
“I was just angry for him,” Wenker said of his Spartan teammate.
“That definitely motivated me for the 400 free relay to go as fast as I could,” he said. “I wanted to swim it fast for the team.”
And did he ever.
In the meet’s finale, the Spartan foursome of Bannister, Villella, Lipton and Wenker nabbed second place behind Bellevue with a time of 3:09.48.
Wenker, the only senior on the relay team, said the pace of the last race fit the theme for the night.
“I was really impressed with all the new swimmers who really stepped it up. They really impressed all of us with how they did,” he said.