POULSBO — The North Kitsap High School swimming and diving team waited until the last moment Thursday to pull even with the Central Kitsap Cougars.
But when it did, it pulled even for good.
The Vikings’ 400 free relay team snagged a last-second victory to manage an 88-88 tie with the Cougars Thursday afternoon.
The Vikings were two points down going into the afternoon’s final event, needing a win to avoid a loss to the Cougars.
Jake Leeper started the relay for the Vikings.
“Jake led off the relay with a great swim,” said coach Greg Braun. “But the CK kid had a really good swim also, so we were down going into the second leg.”
Then it was Pat White’s turn.
White, who Braun dubbed “the star of the day,” held even with CK’s second swimmer, allowing Leland Jeffers a chance to take the lead.
Jeffers did so.
“Leland passed the kid and gave Pat Cox a body’s length worth of lead,” Braun said.
Then the coach watched nervously as Central Kitsap’s fourth swimmer.
“He was coming the whole way,” said Braun. “At 50 (feet) he had moved up a bit; by 75 he had moved up a bit. It was a really close race. It was about a half-second difference between the two of them.”
But it was the Vikings who emerged on the winning end, finishing the race in 4:17.17, while the Cougars finished in 4:13.71.
“It was a great race,” Braun said.
The final swim wasn’t the only great thing about the meet. It was dotted by North Kitsap highlights.
First among them was White, who not only claimed first place in diving (Central did not have any entrants), but also competed well in several unfamiliar events to help out the sickness-shorted North Kitsap team.
White took fourth place in the 100 free, participated in the 200 free relay (where his team took second), and helped the Vikings clinch a tie as part of the 400 free relay team.
“He came up big for us,” Braun said.
Daniel Souza shaved seven seconds off his 100 backstroke time, beating the district time by swimming 1:15.93.
Josh Snell swam a district time in the 100 breastroke, going 1:16.
He and Souza’s times were among the 14 bests posted by North Kitsap swimmers.
Braun was happy with the team, especially after their Dec. 10 meet at Sequim, where they lost 100-82 but posted 22 best times.
“The guys are getting stronger and faster. They’re swimming with more confidence,” Braun said. “Sequim was a big one for us. You could see kids swimming differently, as far as the level of confidence growing.”
The team, Braun said, will face some tougher challenges next month, when they face swimmer and diver-heavy teams such as Gig Harbor and South Kitsap.