FEDERAL WAY - Not too many swimmers place outside the top two in an event at districts and go on to win a state title in the same swim, but not too many swimmers have the work ethic of Sehome sophomore Gwendolyn Roley.
After placing third in the 200 freestyle at the Northwest District swim meet, Roley tapered brilliantly to claim an individual state title, edging out good friend and Bellingham swimmer Maddie Gillman in a thrilling race Saturday, Nov. 10, at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
"It was pretty much euphoria," said Roley of when she touched the wall and realized what she'd accomplished. "I wasn't expecting it because at districts I got third, but it was amazing. I just put my head down and was like, 'just finish, and you'll be able to do it.'"
When asked how Roley was able to not only beat the two swimmers she lost to at districts but the entire state field, she had a simple response: "That's how Sehome tapers work."
Roley and Gillman battled neck-and-neck the first 125 yards of the championship final. Slowly, Roley extended her lead on Gillman by the narrowest margins in the final 75, swimming to a season-best time of 1:59.07, Gillman finished with a 1:59.92.
Last year, Roley placed fifth at state in the 200 with a swim of 2:02.68.
"Gwen is just a tremendous competitor," Sehome coach Don Helling said. "She is a fun kid."
Roley said all the morning and afternoon workouts during the last two and a half months of the season was well worth winning a state title.
"It makes it pay off," she said. "I definitely have been working hard. All those practices where I'm like, 'Wow, this actually sucks so much,' and even during the 500 I was like, 'you know what sounds really good right now? Stopping.' But I didn't, and it was all worth it."
Roley's 20 points she earned in her win was paramount in helping Sehome earn a fourth-place finish and a trophy.
"When I went into the season, I didn't think this was going to happen," Roley said. "It was just perfect.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.