POULSBO — It’s not even mid-December, but both North Kitsap and Kingston are assured a presence at the state meet in February.
While there are surely more qualifiers to come, the two schools qualified three relay teams and individuals in eight different events at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way at their dual meet on Dec. 12.
Kingston, the defending 2A champions, took home a solid team victory, defeating North Kitsap 114-54. Head coach Mark VanHuis said his team looks to pick up where it left off last year with a number of swimmers returning to the program.
“We picked up two swimmers this year that are almost as fast as the ones that moved on,” VanHuis said. “Hopefully we won’t drop off too much.”
The Buccaneers got started with a bang in the first race with the 200 yard medley relay team of Timothy Gallagher, Ethan Fox, Sean Markow and Quincy Walker. Their time of 1:42.82 was just 2.3 seconds off the pace of last year’s state-winning relay team.
Meanwhile, North Kitsap’s “A” team of Brandon Anderson, Alexander Stefanski, Morgan Chapman and Nathan Ramey may have finished second, but they, too, qualified for the state meet with a time of 1:46.48.
Kingston also qualified for the state meet its top 400 yard freestyle relay team of Fox, Gallagher, Aron Markow and Bryce Hoffer, clocking in at 3:26.65. The 200 yard freestyle relay team of Walker, Sean Markow, Aron Markow and Hoffer finished just .39 short of qualifying for states.
In the individual events, Fox will swim in the 100 and 200 yard freestyle at the state meet with times of 48.60 and 1:46.59, winning both of those races against North Kitsap. Gallagher swam a very strong 4:41.75 in the 500 yard freestyle and 1:53.91 in the 200 yard individual medley, both good enough to get him to Federal Way. Aron Markow qualified in the 100 yard butterfly and 100 yard breaststroke with times of 55.75 and 1:01.83 respectively. Walker finished the 50 yard freestyle in 22.64, which was also good enough to get him to the state meet.
“We had some pretty awesome swims,” said VanHuis. “A couple of our guys just returned from junior nationals so they were still at their peak right now, so they did really well.”
Aside from the 200 yard relay team, Anderson swam a state-qualifying time in the 100 yard backstroke, 56.99 as did Ramey (1:02.62) in the 100 yard breaststroke. Ramey nearly did the same in the 50 yard freestyle (23.38), but was .28 short.
“Nathan did a good job in the 100 breaststroke and the 50 free,” North Kitsap head coach Greg Braun said. “He swam that twice today, once as a leadoff in the relay. He’s not really a sprinter, but he does want to qualify for everything he can at state. Brandon’s 100 backstroke was a great swim for him as well.”
The Vikings swim against Port Angeles on Thursday, Dec. 14, which occurred after press deadline for the North Kitsap Herald, and then take a three-week break from meets to get in some practice time and continue to build up their fitness base for the second half of the swim season.
North Kitsap’s schedule is daunting — it includes meets against Olympic, Kingston and Port Angeles along with the annual Olympic Swimvitational — but the challenge that comes with competing against these tops teams should help North Kitsap during the postseason.
“We see it every day, we know what we’re up against,” Braun said. “It’s a good challenge, and this is kind of a nice meet because we had a few of our top kids back from nationals.”
As for the Bucs, they swim on Dec. 14 as well against 3A state champions Bainbridge in one of Washington’s most high-profile meets this season. With just two seniors lost to graduation who swam at the state meet last season, VanHuis said his team looks to pick up where it left off last year, which could mean another return trip to the podium in February. But he prefers his team to take on the season once race at a time.
“Our goal is to be a cohesive unit as a team and just focus on what’s in front of us,” VanHuis said. “Everything else should take care of itself. We’d like to win the title, we’d like to take districts again, we’d like to do all those things, but I can’t let [my swimmers] make that a priority. They need to focus on the race in from of them, instead of the big picture. My job is to worry about the big picture.”