FEDERAL WAY - The Sehome boys' swim team already has built quite a tradition at the five-year-old Class 2A State Championship meet.
But besides winning team titles, there are very few traditions the Mariners take more seriously than starting the meet off right.
For the fourth time in five years, Sehome started the meet off with a victory on Saturday, Feb. 16, at the King County Aquatic Center, as Andy Small, Patrick Gregory, Isaiah Grambo and Isaac Day claimed the state title in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1 minute, 41.91 seconds. The time was the sixth fastest in meet history.
"This is pretty cool," said Gregory, who swam a key breaststroke leg. "We know it's going to be tough this year (to win a team title), but this helps get everybody's mind in the right place. It's always important to start strong in the first event."
Gregory and Small were the only swimmers to repeat in the event, and Gregory actually was part of three state champion 200 medley relays, as he also was part of the Mariners' winning team in 2010 as a freshman.
For Gregory and Day, being part of strong Sehome relays has become more than just a state meet tradition - it's ingrained in their DNA.
Both Gregory and Day have older brothers that swam the relays for the Mariners.
"Patrick's and my older brothers swam together here about four years ago," Day said. "They were both named Evan. It was kind of neat that Patrick and I got to swim together and win a title together. It was kind of like we were able to do it for our brothers."
That win didn't come easily, though.
Small slipped a little on his backstroke start, and Sehome found itself in a 3.28-second hole to Steilacoom and standout backstroker Scott Benjamin after just 50 yards.
"We knew we were going to be behind after the first leg, but when Andy slipped on his start, it was a little more than we thought," Gregory said. "My whole goal going in was to get us head-to-head and give us a shot."
Gregory didn't quite get the Mariners even, but he did manage to chop Steilacoom's lead down to less than half a second and move Sehome up from fifth to second at the race's midway point.
Grambo then gave the Mariners the lead by more than 35 hundredths of a second.
"My whole goal was to just keep pushing it," Grambo said. "I just wanted to give it my best."
Day needed to do the same, or else Steilacoom would have been standing atop the awards podium, as Steilacoom's Andrew Lamb came on hard on the final leg.
"I saw at the turn that we were about even," Day said. "I knew Steilacoom's best sprinter wasn't swimming, but the guy who was swimming was fast, so I just pushed as hard as I could. I may not have the best start or turn, but that's what I can always do."
Lamb appeared to have the momentum at the end, but Day stretched out on the final stroke to edge him by 14 hundredths of a second and keep alive Sehome's tradition in the event.
"Our goal coming in was to give us a boost, and I think we were able to do that today," Grambo said.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
200 MEDLEY RELAY CHAMPIONS
Year Team Time
2009 Sehome 1:41.59
2010 Sehome 1:40.57
2011 Interlake 1:37.35
2012 Sehome 1:39.90
2013 Sehome 1:41.91
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.