EAST BREMERTON — Kingston’s Tim Gallagher and Olympic’s Ross Burchell were 25 yards away from the finish in the long slog of the 500-yard freestyle event.
After four-and-a-half minutes, the two were neck-and-neck with Burchell holding the slightest of leads over his competitor.
As the two sprinted furiously down the stretch, Gallagher pulled even, setting up a photo finish. When the dust cleared, it was Gallagher with a time of 4:41.65 who had come out on top, just three-tenths of a second ahead of Burchell (4:41.98). Both were state meet qualifying times.
“That was one of the best high school races you will ever see,” Kingston head coach Mark VanHuis said. “I have been around high school swimming for the better part of 25 years and that’s one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.”
“I stuck to what I wanted to do,” Gallagher said. “I just wanted to keep it nice and smooth.”
Gallagher, one of two ironmen for Kingston along with fellow junior Ethan Fox — Ironman status is achieved by swimming state-qualifiying times in all eight individual events during the season — led the Buccaneers past Olympic in a dual meet on Jan. 11 that featured a number of extremely close races between two previously undefeated teams.
“We knew coming in that it was going to be difficult,” Fox said. “They were 4-0 as well.”
And the festivities kicked off with a bang as Kingston’s 200 medley relay team of Gallagher, Aron Markow, Quincy Walker and Dave Andersen won the first race with a time of 1:40.74, .68 ahead of Olympic’s Rainer Meyer, Haakon Meyer, Dietrich Meyer and Burchell (1:41.42).
Fox won two events by less than a second — the 100 freestyle and the 200 yard individual medley. In the 100 free, Fox (48.01) bested Dietrich Meyer (48.66) by six tenths of a second. He finished ahead of Burchell in the 200 individual medley, the event he won at the state meet last year, by the same margin.
When Walker took home a win in the 100 backstroke by 2.7 seconds over Rainer Meyer, it seemed like a runaway victory compared to the races that had happened before it.
“It was an awesome meet,” VanHuis said. “We had some great swims, we had some new district qualifiers, we just swam really really well.”
Olympic picked up wins in the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly. In another tight race, the 50 freestyle, Dietrich Meyer (22.62) beat Aron Markow (22.65) by three one-hundredths of a second. Haakon Meyer won the 100 butterfly in 55.17, which was a state-qualifying time; he is now just two events short of Ironman status — the 50 and 500 freestyle.
“For me, every race was fun to watch,” Olympic head coach Paul Henderson said. “I didn’t even think about keeping score; it was secondary for me. We knew we were swimming against the state champs, and we were going to hang with them.”
Olympic has already qualified five individuals for at least one even at the state meet on Feb.16-17 at King County Aquatics in Federal Way along with all three relay teams. The Trojans will be well represented and are looking to finish in the top six after placing ninth last year.
“This is a great indicator of where we’re at performance-wise,” Henderson said. “We still have work to do, but we know what’s in reach.”