BELLINGHAM - Sehome junior Molly McGuire wanted to enjoy the same special feeling her sister did in swimming.
Sehome senior Julie Siegfried hungered to experience the same league championship she did as a freshman.
Sehome sophomore Gwen Roley just sought to come through with two vital individual victories with state-qualifying times against first-rate competition from the Mariners' prime swimming rival.
Mission accomplished for all three - by the narrowest of margins against a Squalicum team that won eight of 12 events but succumbed by the slimmest of margins to Sehome's depth in a thrilling meet that included 10 state qualifying times, with five by each team.
Sehome's pressure-packed 94-91 victory on Tuesday, Oct. 16, not only gave the defending Class 2A state champion Mariners (7-0 overall, 6-0 NWC) the conference championship, but was also the first dual meet loss for defending champion Squalicum (11-1, 6-1) over a two-season span.
The final event at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center, a marvelously competitive 400-yard freestyle relay, had the crowd spellbound and the swimmers screaming about as loud as they can.
"I know I've never screamed louder than that," said Siegfried, who was one of seven Sehome seniors honored for their service and spirit on a team filled with young standouts.
Squalicum won the relay in a season-best state-qualifying time of 3 minutes, 57.79 seconds, behind Abby Vonfeldt, Josephine Hegeberg and freshmen Shaye Fowler and Olivia Nielsen.
But the event was a bittersweet microcosm of the meet, since Sehome needed to finish second and third in the relay - and did so to gain the six points it needed to overcome the Storm.
Sehome's Ellie Poehlman, Shirley Lam, McGuire and Roley finished second in 3:58.10, a state time in a classic race. But what had Siegfried screaming was the Mariners' B team of Megan Mundell, Nina Djukic, freshman Sophie Grambo and senior Sophia Carbone, who finished third in 4:23.21. Had the Mariners not earned those final two points of the meet, Squalicum would have won 93-92.
"Give Squalicum the credit. They were a little better today," Storm coach Steve Gibb said. "But I can't be discouraged when our swimmers turned in so many outstanding times."
"It was an outstanding effort by Squalicum," said Mariners coach Don Helling, savoring a truly memorable victory, since literally every scoring effort by his swimmers made the difference. "I was really pleased that we reached our goal of no (non-scoring) sixth places except one race, and that was an outstanding effort."
McGuire won the 100 freestyle in 59.41 seconds - nine one-hundredths second ahead of Squalicum sophomore Vonfeldt as the crowd and the swimmers verbally raised the roof.
"I really wanted to mirror the great feeling my sister (Megan McGuire, now a student at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve) had when she helped beat Squalicum for the title three years ago as a senior," said Molly McGuire, who was then in eighth grade and dreaming of Sehome swim success.
Roley came through with a career best 2:01.81 in the 200 free to take first over Squalicum's Nielsen, whose 2:03.79 also qualified for state, as did Poehlman's 2:07.61 for third place. Roley also won the 500 free in a state time of 5:32.47.
Roley then performed the difficult, immediate turnaround after the 500 free. She swam the anchor leg on a 200 free relay with McGuire, freshman Hannah Holmgren and Poehlman, a sophomore who contributed second in the 500 free. The Sehome 200 free relay team's 1:49.47 prevailed by 38 hundredths second over Squalicum's Maddi Dohm, Kathryn Monahan, Fowler and Nielsen in an absolute competitive classic.
"I love how our seniors have given us so much spirit," said Roley. "They're all super into spirit. I didn't realize I had gone that fast in the 200 free."
Squalicum opened the meet by winning the 200 medley relay in a state time of 2:01.53 behind Vonfeldt, Hegeberg, Monahan and Dohm.
Hegeberg, a junior, took the 200 individual medley in 2:23.57 and Dohm followed by taking the 50 free in 26.79, touching out McGuire in yet another thrilling race. Squalicum then made it four victories in a row as Tori Franzen won the diving with 170.1 points and Kaitlin Doyle claimed the 100 butterfly in 1:10.05. Squalicum's final victories were by Nielsen with a state 1:05.56 in the 100 backstroke and by Hegeberg with a state 1:11.91 in the 100 breaststroke, in which Sehome's Holmgren also swam a state 1:12.02 while finishing second.
Sehome senior Zoey Sheinkopf scored five crucial points with a second in the 100 fly and a fifth in the 200 IM, plus her relay work, typifying the team's all-around effort.
"I was really happy with all of our 100 freestylers," Gibb said of Squalicum's Dohm, Vonfeldt and Monahan, who combined to snag a combined eight points, giving Squalicum the lead for the last time at 56-53.
In addition to the all-important Sehome third in the final relay, the Mariners opened the meet with second place in the 200 medley (Siegfried, Holmgren, Zoe Sheinkopf and Carbone) and third (Nina Djukic, Leah Day, Shirley Lam and freshman Savanna Schoenecker) behind Squalicum's state-qualifying victory. In addition, Carbone, Sheinkopf, Day and Mundell finished an all-important third in the 200 free relay.
"We gambled in the medley relay by putting Lam and Holmgren on separate teams, because I thought that would get us six points (four for second, two for third)," said Helling, whose team finishes the dual season at Anacortes on Thursday, Oct. 18, but has now clinched the title. "But we didn't gamble with any changes in the 400 free relay and we came out with what we needed (second and third)."
It turned out his gamble on the opening relay wound up making a winning difference.
"I'd say we're the underdog behind Squalicum (and its raft of winners) at district and state," said Helling, noting that new 2A addition Lake Washington also may be a district and state title threat.
SEHOME 94, SQUALICUM 91
200 medley relay: Squalicum (Abby Vonfeldt, Josephine Hedeberg, Kathryn Monahan, Maddie Dohm) 2:01.53; 200 freestyle: Gwen Roley (Sehome) 2:01.81; 200 individual medley: Josephine Hegeberg (Squal) 2:23.57; 50 free: Maddie Dohm (Squal) 26.79; Diving: Tori Franzen (Squal) 170.1 points; 100 butterfly: Kaitlin Doyle (Squal) 1:10.05; 100 freestyle: Molly McGuire (Sehome) 59.41; 500 freestyle: Gwen Roley (Sehome) 5:32.47; 200 freestyle relay: Sehome (Molly McGuire, Hannah Holmgren, Ellie Poehlman, Gwen Roley) 1:49.47; 100 backstroke: Olivia Nielsen (Squal) 1:05.56; 100 breaststroke: Josephine Hegeberg (Squal) 1:11.91; 400 freestyle relay: Squalicum (Abby Vonfeldt, Josephine Hegeberg, Shaye Fowler, Olivia Nielsen) 3:57.79.