Team chemistry aiding aquatic Cougars

Trojans also in good shape as postseason looms.


Sports editor

Central Kitsap boys swim coach Steve LaHaie has seen some changes in his team since they first hit the pool in November.

Not only is CK growing individually as swimmers, LaHaie said, but even more so as a team.

“They’ve really gotten together,” LaHaie said. “They really enjoy each other’s company. They’re looking out for each other. It’s just that camaraderie they have. In an individual sport, that can be hard.”

But the benefits can be great.

“It’s in their swims,” LaHaie said. “You can hear them. They’re yelling for everybody.”

Central Kitsap easily swam by a depleted Lincoln team Thursday in a Narrows League meet at the Olympic Aquatic Center, 128-33, with Cougars atop the scorecard in all but one event.

LaHaie said the effort was particularly strong as many swimmers got an opportunity to step up in the meet with CK knowing Lincoln, which had just six or seven swimmers, was down this season.

“I’m excited with where we’re at,” LaHaie said. “I really see a lot of improvement. A lot of those new guys have really made huge progress. You can see them starting to score more as the season has gone on.”

CK’s Seth Parker logged his top time in the 100-yard breast stroke, swimming a 59.28-second race that not only shaved a full second off his previous top time this season, but also gave him another state-qualifying nod.

“That was huge,” LaHaie said. “He was excited he pulled that off.”

Parker also won the 200 free in 1:51.33.

But again, this meet was just as much about Parker’s time as it was the marked improvement for many of CK’s aquatic athletes.

“We lose a lot of guys next year,” he said, referring to the team’s seven seniors. “So these guys, they have to pick it up.”

Each CK relay won, with Ryan Burton, Jeremy Torres, Joe Phillips and Tyler Hirata teaming up in the 200 medley for a time of 2:00.21. Parker, David Richardson and Kyle Bonnell teamed up with Hirata in the 200 free relay, as that foursome swam a winning time of 1:37.7. In the 400 free relay, featuring Bonnell, Phillips, Torres and Richarson, the group won in 3:52.89.

With many members of the team starting to eye the postseason, LaHaie said he liked seeing the focus out of Richardson and Bonnell that he did.

“He’s focused,” LaHaie said of Richardson. “He came in focused. And Kyle Bonnell is starting to get focused again. He’s not having his best year, but he did well today.”

Phillips took the 200 individual medley in 2:17.7 while Richardson added a win in the 100 free (52.90). Eric Reichel was a winning with his time of 6:12.68 in the 500 free and Bonnell took the 100 fly in 1:02.29. Torres rounded out the strong efforts with a 100 back victory (1:06.53). Lincoln’s Trevor Hatch was the lone Abe to win, taking the 50 free in 25 seconds flat.

But beyond them, LaHaie said it was the efforts of swimmers like John and James Mackovjak, Albert Taylor and Payton Lyon, to name a few, that really showed how far the overly young team has come.

“Their improvements have been huge,” he said. “This year, they started off not scoring but they’re moving into scoring roles pretty regularly now. We’ve got a lot of guys that are just starting to get confident with different strokes.”

That’s helped everyone rally around one another this season too, Bonnell said.

“When you know you have your team supporting you, it really helps you,” he said. “You’re not just doing it for yourself. You’re doing it for your team.”

LaHaie said wins like this one against Lincoln, with so many Cougs scoring team points, help pump up everyone. Even team managers Stephanie Frye and Jessica Lingenbrink have made his life easier this season.

“They’ve done a really good job,” LaHaie said.

PA just edges Oly

When asked if his squad was where he’d like them to be at this point in the prep boys swimming season, Olympic coach Paul Henderson began talking enthusiastically about his squad.

“We’re ahead of where I thought we would be,” Henderson said excitedly. “The guys have surprised me. They’re really swimming up to the level of the competition. They work hard. And they keep on top of each other.”

The timing couldn’t be better.

“It’s getting ready for the long haul here, the big run,” he said. “Really, it’s the time of year to buckle down.”

After Henderson said the team didn’t get quite as many members in the pool across winter break as he would have liked, the Port Angeles meet was a nice way to continue to get back into shape.

“We’re just bringing them up a little bit from break,” he said. “We didn’t get as much in the water. Then it’s just tapering.”

While Port Angeles won Thursday’s meet at the OAC 97-78, the Trojans were disqualified in one event, gave away 13 points with no diver and were without one of the team’s top swimmers in Colton Kohnke.

“It was really close,” Henderson said. “And we had a (disqualification) and we didn’t have Colton. So it’s a pretty even meet.”

While a number of swimmers put forth great efforts for Oly, it was the trio of John Wojtech, Tyler Bass and Jacob Nord that did the bulk of the Trojans’ scoring.

The trio teamed with Connor Kamp to win the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:58.44. Derek Conway-Newton stepped in for Kamp in the 200 free relay as that group won in a time of 1:40.9.

Individually, Wojtech added wins in the 200 IM (2:10.96) and the 100 fly (58.13). Nord was the winner in the 50 free with a time of 24.52 seconds and Bass took wins in the 500 free (5:34.84) and 100 breast (1:13.83).

Of all his team’s performances, Henderson was happy to see the progress the relays have continued to make, adding that Oly hopes it can advance as many relays as possible to the postseason.

“I’m really hopeful, the way they’re swimming,” he said. “But you never know what’s going to happen. You never know what you can expect. But I’m confident that with what we have, we’ll do well.”

With so many swimmers stepping up, Henderson said efforts like the ongoing improvement shown by Scott Lutz epitomizes much of the team’s growth.

“He’s come on strong. He’s been great to watch,” Henderson said. “Everybody is swimming well. It’s just different levels.”

Klahowya remains at two members (Justin Kirchner and Joey Chapman), so the team is still swimming with Oly in later heats.