FEDERAL WAY - For the first time in four years, a 2A state team title trophy isn't leaving the King County Aquatic Center and heading back north up I-5 to Bellingham.
Two individual titles are, though.
Sehome sophomore Gwendolyn Roley out-dueled Bellingham's Maddie Gillman for a state title in a thrilling 200 freestyle final, and Squalicum senior diver Tori Franzen finally earned the diving title she's been so close to since her freshman year.
Since 2007, Sehome has won two state titles and has one second-place finish. Squalicum won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 and placed second in 2011 and 2008. The two swimming forces didn't quite have the firepower this year. Sehome placed fourth with 151 points, Squalicum took sixth with 139 points and Bellingham placed 15th, earning 61 points during the Class 2A Swimming and Diving Championships Saturday, Nov. 10, in Federal Way.
Sehome entered the two-day meet with the goal of taking home a trophy. Coach Don Helling was apprehensive before day two started, but his Mariners got a spot on the podium, placing fourth.
"This morning when we were talking to Don, he was saying, 'it's not likely you will get a trophy, but you should still go out and do your best.' I hope that's what I did."
Roley wasn't the only one who played a role in the Mariners' trophy-winning performance, although she scored 36 team points in her two individual events. Helling gave credit to his relays. Sehome and Lake Washington, who won the 2A title, were the only two schools to qualify for the A final in all three relays. Relay finishes receive double points.
"Relays are so important for team scores, and Shirley Lam was a big part of those relays," Helling said. "I am pleased (with our finish). We came into the meet eighth, so we moved up. We had some outstanding swims yesterday, and we knew if we held our spots we would be between fourth and sixth. It just so happened we held our spots enough to bump into that fourth-place spot."
The team of Lam, Hannah Holmgren, Molly McGuire and Sophia Carbone placed eighth in the 200 medley relay with a 2:00.96. McGuire, Holmgren, Roley and Ellie Poehlman took fifth in the 200 freestyle relay with a 1:47.36, and McGuire, Lam, Roley and Poehlman placed sixth in the 400 freestyle relay with a 3:52.17.
Holmgren added a sixth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke, swimming a season-best 1:10.82, and Lam took seventh in the 100 backstroke with a 1:03.82 to give the Mariners key points.
"We had a lot of good swims," Helling said. "Shirley Lam really stepped up in this meet, getting a best time and repeating two 1:03s in the hundred back yesterday and today. She has been around 1:06, 1:05, for a lot of the season. Her taper really came on. She had some gutsy swims."
Squalicum coach Steve Gibb was a bit disappointed with the Storm's finish and times, but he said he was proud of how hard his team worked.
"I'm real pleased with their effort," Gibb said. "They worked really hard. Josephine Hegeberg had a really good meet. It wasn't quite what we pictured, but that's the way it goes some years."
Hegeberg finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke with a season-best time of 1:10.45 and placed seventh in the 200 freestyle with a 2:06.86. She also helped the Storm's 200 medley relay team place fifth and its 200 freestyle relay team finish seventh.
The best part of the meet for Gibb was Franzen's performance on the diving board.
"The highlight of the meet, of course, was Tori," Gibb said. "She has worked all four years really hard to get there, and she's been right there knocking on the door. She slammed the door today with an exclamation mark."
Franzen, who finished fourth as a freshman, third as a sophomore and second as a junior, blew away the rest of the 2A field with 383.55 points - a new 2A meet record.
She beat the second-place finisher by 78.95 points and ended her 11-dive program with one of her favorite dives - the forward two somersault tuck.
"I have wanted (a state title), so it definitely feels good," Franzen said. "To finally achieve your goal is always good. I just wanted to nail my dives and do the best I could. ... It definitely makes it more fun that I beat a record."
Bellingham divers were represented well. Besides Franzen's state title, Bellingham High's Ellie Kindlund placed sixth with 260.60 points, Squalicum's Madi Krussow finished seventh with 256.05 points and Sehome's Olivia Keneipp scored 204.85 points and finished 15th.
Bellingham coach Jeff Anderson said Bellingham district dive coach Taylor Sundstrom told him Kindlund recorded a personal best by 20 points.
He was also thrilled with Gillman's performance, especially how she battled wire-to-wire with Roley in the 200 and 500 freestyle.
"I was real happy with our finish," Anderson said. "Maddie did really really well. She got two second places. That was a great duel, and they are best friends. Gwen got the edge in the 200, but Maddie came back and got the edge in the 500. It was even Steven today for those two."
Gillman and Roley provided plenty of excitement for the crowd at the aquatic center. Both swimmers were neck-and-neck at the 125-yard mark in the 200 freestyle. Roley methodically put distance between her and Gillman the remaining 75 yards, pulling out the win by .85 seconds.
The 500 was a photo finish. After 20 times back and forth the 25-yard pool length, Gillman beat Roley to the wall by .21 seconds for second-place. The Sehome sophomore settled for third.
"I thought it was a good that we kind of got to switch," Roley said. "I beat her in the 200, and she beat me in the 500. That was fair, and she is sort of my best friend, so it's not like I hate her for it. It was wonderful."
With senior years still ahead for Gillman and Roley, it surely won't be the last time the two duke it out in the pool.
"It was a lot of fun," said Helling of the Gillman-Roley battles. "They have went back and forth all season long, and they are going to keep doing it forever. Maddie is a real talented kid, and Gwen is just a tremendous competitor."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.