FEDERAL WAY — As Dietrich Meyer came barrelling down lane four in the final event of the 2A state meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay, a small, but mighty group of Trojans were standing on the deck, screaming, cheering, hollering and, of course, rooting on their teammate to finish strong.
Meyer held off a furious charge from Kingston’s Tim Gallagher to swim a 45.91 100-yard split. He touched the wall and all at once, a state meet record was broken, and for the first time ever, Olympic High School had a state championship swim team.
Just six Trojans qualified for state, but the size of the team didn’t matter; each and every swimmer brought their best to the pool. Olympic scored 293 points, finishing 28 points ahead of Anacortes to take the championship trophy. Head coach Paul Henderson also walked away with Coach of the Meet honors for the second year in a row.
“These guys are everything,” said Henderson, still dizzy and out of sorts from the drama of the final event. “I mean, six guys just won state. You can’t do it with any less. These guys are such a family, with all these brothers on the team. They just make each other better all the way around. It’s been a blessing to coach them, I just stand here and say ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s happening.’”
It happened. A year after taking fourth place a state, Olympic returned its entire team for one more run.
“Last year, we said we were going to take it,” said senior Haakon Meyer. “Our swims were good, but they weren’t what we needed. This year we brought it.”
But even with all the talent necessary in place, the team went through its fair share of adversity.
Ross Burchell, a top swimmer, was injured for much of the season and never got back to full strength; and he ultimately didn’t get the chance to defend his title in the 500-yard freestyle.
Olympic did not even finish first in their own league. Kingston bested them in a dual meet, 95-75, on Jan. 17. Despite that setback, the team continued to swim faster as the postseason began to draw near. Perhaps last season’s state times would hold up and give them a puncher’s chance.
“As the season progressed, I thought, ‘I don’t know. Why not us?’” Henderson said.
A historic February snowstorm nearly threw that plan into disarray. With schools, and therefore school facilities such as the pool, closed for days, the Trojans couldn’t practice. And no one knew how the long layoff would affect the team. Fortunately, the boys looked good when they got back into the water two days before preliminaries.
“It was definitely kind of scary not being able to practice for four days before state,” Dietrich Meyer said. “But we got a couple days in and we all felt good.”
It was Kingston that took an early lead, winning the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley. But Olympic stayed close with a third place finish in the relay and a fifth place from Ryan Burchell. Older brother Ross won the consolation heat, scoring nine points. Haakon Meyer then finished second in the 200 IM.
In the 50 free, it was Dietrich Meyer who got the ball rolling for Olympic, winning a state championship in the 50 free, but teammates Tiernann Shelton and Rainer Meyer also took home top eight finishes to pick up enough points to vault the Trojans into the lead.
Brothers Dietrich and Haakon Meyer went 1-2 in the 100-yard freestyle, the former breaking his own state meet record with a time of 46.42.
Ross Burchell fought gamely to finish fifth in the 100-yard butterfly and younger brother Ryan took second in the 500 to put Olympic 39 points ahead of Anacortes.
The Meyer brothers and Tiernann Shelton smoked the field in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Each swimmer was faster than the previous one, culminating in a 20.98 50-yard split by Dietrich Meyer, for an overall time of 1:26.64, which broke the record set last year by Columbia River.
That all set the stage for the fateful 400-yard freestyle relay. The Trojans’ final time of 3:10.88 set another 2A state meet record, shattering the mark set by Kingston one year ago.
“In that fourth relay, I’ve never been more nervous about a start, an exchange, an exchange and an exchange,” Henderson said. “At that point we were ahead, but that’s why you win the race, it’s never done until it’s done.”
But there was no need to worry. The start was clean, the exchanges were crisp and all four swimmers were at the top of their game. There was nothing left to do but take to the podium and hoist their hard-earned trophy.
The 2019 2A state meet will go down as the day six warriors put forth a Herculean effort to combine for four individual state titles, three 2A state meet records, and one landmark team championship that will be remembered forever.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.