BELLINGHAM - Shirley Lam, a 5-foot-11/2-inch junior standout, seems to have a 6-foot voice when she's cheering for a Sehome teammate.
"Shirley has such a powerful voice, she's the only one I can (distinctly) hear cheering for me while I'm in the pool," said sophomore Gwen Roley, who thankfully heard Lam a lot during Sehome's 127-59 Northwest Conference girls' swimming victory over Bellingham on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center.
Roley and Lam swam on all three winning relays for the defending Class 2A state champion Mariners, including a state qualifying time of 3 minutes, 57.99 seconds in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Roley also logged an encouraging 100 free victory in 58.45 seconds.
"Maybe it's a little taller than 6 feet," Lam said with a laugh about the metaphor for her vocal power, which has become legendary among the Mariners. "One thing I really love about swimming is cheering."
Lam even gave a shout-out of sorts for Bellingham junior Maddie Gillman, who won the 100 butterfly by nearly five seconds in a solid 1:08.59 and claimed the 200 individual medley over Lam in 2:23.32, only 42 hundredths second shy of a state qualifying time.
"Maddie (a friend and a Bellingham Bay Swim Team club mate) is really an amazing swimmer," said Lam. "I was happy with my swim against her in the IM, because it means I'm getting close to a state time."
In a sense, it was a win-win day for both the Mariners (4-0, 4-0 NWC) and Red Raiders (1-2, 1-2 NWC), who combined to fill all eight lanes in all three relays.
"I can't remember the last time that happened with the relays," said longtime Sehome coach Don Helling, who was pleased with "a lot of solid swims" and had all non-seniors among his winners. Second-year Bellingham coach Jeff Anderson, who also saw junior Ellie Kindlund win the diving for the Red Raiders, felt pretty much the same way.
Kindlund, sixth at state last year, scored 151.85 points against Sehome.
Roley, Lam, freshman Hannah Holmgren and sophomore Ellie Poehlman opened the meet by winning the 200 medley relay in 2:02.98. Poehlman, Lam, Roley and junior Molly McGuire took the 200 free relay in 1:49.84 and then qualified for state in the 400 free relay.
Helling pointed out that Holmgren, already a state qualifier in the 100 breaststroke, posted a quality double without much rest by winning the 500 free in 6:07.78 and the 100 breast in 1:15.64.
The coach was also encouraged with victories from sophomore Megan Mundell, 2:18.67 in the 200 free; McGuire, 27.05 in the 50 free, and junior Nina Djukic, 1:12.19 in the 100 backstroke.
"Nina has really come out of nowhere through hard work," said Helling. "She didn't start swimming until she was a freshman. Now it wouldn't surprise me to see her make state."
Anderson could say the same thing about junior Madison Smith, who was third in the 500 free.
"Madison dropped 12 seconds in the 500 at the Anacortes Invitational and she dropped 11 more seconds today," he said. "I'm really proud of her."
Anderson said Gillman is trying a variety of events with the goal of competing in the 200 and 500 freestyles at state.
Gillman said she surprised herself by winning two individual events, a rarity for anyone against Sehome. Was it one of her best days?
"I wouldn't want to put a label like that on it," she said with a shy smile.
Helling was gratified to see so many young swimmers turn in solid efforts.
"Our kids are training hard and they still pulled off some pretty impressive swims," he said. "That 400 free relay was our season best by three seconds and beat state qualifying by two seconds. Bellingham also had a lot of good friends - they're definitely moving up."
Roley, who was fifth in the 200 and seventh in the 500 at Class 2A state as a freshman, was excited by the 400 free relay team's state time.
"We have a lot of good new people," Roley said.
SEHOME 127, BELLINGHAM 59
200 medley relay: Sehome (Gwen Roley, Hannah Holmgren, Shirley Lam, Ellie Poehlman) 2:02.98; 200 freestyle: Megan Mundell (S) 2:18.67; 200 individual medley: Maddie Gillman (B) 2:23.32; 50 freestyle: Molly McGuire (S) 27.05; Diving: Ellie Kindlund (B) 151.85 points; 100 butterfly: Maddie Gillman (B) 1:08.59; 100 freestyle: Gwen Roley (S) 58.45; 500 freestyle: Hannah Holmgren (S) 6:07.78; 200 freestyle relay: Sehome (Molly McGuire, Ellie Poehlman, Shirley Lam, Gwen Roley) 1:49.84; 100 backstroke: Nina Djukic (S) 1:12.19; 100 breaststroke: Hannah Holmgren (S) 1:15.64; 400 freestyle relay: Sehome (Ellie Poehlman, Gwen Roley, Shirley Lam, Molly McGuire) 3:57.99 (state time).
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.