BELLINGHAM - Squalicum's girls' swim team could not celebrate winning the Northwest Conference dual meet championship until several minutes after the meet ended.
Then, when the announcer informed an anxious crowd at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center that Squalicum had beaten defending champion Sehome 94-92, on a most memorable Tuesday, Oct. 22, the Storm girls seemed to rattle the building with their screams.
That was the emotional benefit of not having a scoreboard or a public running score. It was also an outpouring of emotions from Storm girls who recalled their 94-91 loss to Sehome last year in identical circumstances.
Storm senior sprint standout Maddie Dohm not only did not know shortly after the meet if she was part of a dual meet champion for the third time in four years at Squalicum (8-0 overall, 7-0 NWC), she did not even know she was a double winner.
That was fine with her - she just felt every Storm girl had given her all to overcome a first-rate effort by the Mariners (5-1, 5-1, with one dual remaining).
"I don't know if I won the 100-yard free," Dohm said when congratulated on her two sprint wins. "I did?"
Dohm, indeed, did win in 1 minute, .89 second. But not without being pushed by career freestyle bests from Sehome sophomore Sophie Grambo (1:00.92) and Sehome senior Nina Djukic (1:01.43) in just one of several dramatic races.
From the standpoints of both quality and competition, the big races of the matchup of unbeaten teams were in the 500 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke, along with the meet-ending 400 free relay, with both the winner and runner-up achieving Class 2A state qualifying times in all three races.
Sehome junior Gwen Roley took the 500 free in 5:32.63, touching out Squalicum's Josephine Hegeberg, who swam 5:33.31. In the 100 breast, Hegeberg staged a remarkable last-lap rally to win in 1:11.79, just ahead of Sehome sophomore Hannah Holmgren's best of 1:12.46.
Roley also won the 200 individual medley in 2:20.65, yet another state time.
Sehome's efforts in defeat left the team's inspirational leader, senior Shirley Lam, close to emotionally breathless.
"That was a great meet," Lam said. "It was super exciting to see all the girls (on both teams) trying so hard. Everyone tried their best. You couldn't ask for more."
From the standpoint of sheer excellence, Squalicum freshman Syndney Wong came through with a sensational effort under pressure.
Wong has a state qualifying time in every event she has swum in her first high school season. She looked just that talented while taking the 200 free in 2:03.70 and the 100 butterfly in 1:05.40, both state times.
Wong teamed with Dohm, Janae Gallant and Shaye Fowler to win the 200 free relay in 1:49.79. Wong then helped take an all-important second place in the 400 free relay in a state-qualifying 3:59.69 with Abby VonFeldt, Ivana Witt and anchor swimmer Hegeberg.
The Storm girls didn't know it at the time, but their meet-ending second place was what they had to have to score the four points they needed to win. Sehome won a state-caliber victory in 3:59.51 with Lam, Grambo, Ellie Poehlman and Roley, who rallied from half a body-length behind off the block to swim a career-best 56.2 split.
The Storm's other victories were by VonFeldt in the 100 back (1:07.08), diver Madi Krussow (169.0 points for six dives) and the 200 relay team of VonFeldt, Hegeberg, Savannah McGee and Dohm in a state-qualifying 2:01.60.
"I'm super excited because I feel this is our most 'team like' group in four years," said Dohm, who helped beat the Mariners to the NWC dual title for the third time in four seasons. "There's an incredible bond among us. We've been training for this meet all season."
Squalicum coach Steve Gibb was bursting with a quiet pride.
"We had some huge drops (for personal bests) and new district qualifiers," he said. "Everyone did well. Josephine dropped 10 seconds in her 500 free and Ivana dropped 20 seconds. Abby had a huge meet, with a great leg in the last relay. And Josephine swam a great leg in the 400 free relay right after winning the breaststroke (in state time)."
Sehome coach Don Helling might have been the only person in the building who knew the score well before the last relay, but he didn't want to spoil anyone's fun by talking about it.
"I knew we had to go 1-2 in the relay to win," Helling said. "I have to keep score (in his head when he's coaching)."
The Storm's standouts pointed out how especially pleased they were that every girl who scored points helped make a title difference. Other Squalicum scorers included Kristina DeKoster, Lani Serres, Chloe Salkeld, and divers Samantha Jones (164.90) and Izzy Cardinale.
Helling said Lake Washington, Squalicum and Sehome all will be in contention for the 2A Northwest District title. He pointed out that Eastern Washington's 2A teams "have never been stronger," but it's still possible for both the Mariners and Storm to place at state.
SQUALICUM 94, SEHOME 92
200 medley relay: Squalicum (Abby VonFeldt, Josephine Hegeberg, Savannah McGhee, Maddie Dohm) 2:01.60 (state time); 200 freestyle: Sydney Wong (Sq) 2:03.70 (state); 200 individual medley: Gwen Roley (Sehome) 2:20.65 (state); 50 freestyle: Maddie Dohm (Sq) 26.91; 1-meter diving: Madi Krussow (Sq) 169.0; 100 butterfly: Sydney Wong (Sq) 1:05.40 (state); 100 freestyle: Maddie Dohm (Sq) 1:00.89; 500 freestyle: Gwen Roley (Sehome) 5:32.63 (state), 2. Josephine Hegeberg (Sq) 5:33.31 (state); 200 freestyle relay: Squalicum (Maddie Dohm Janae Gallant, Shaye Fowler, Sydney Wong) 1:49.79; 100 backstroke: Abby VonFeldt (Sq) 1:07.08; 100 butterfly: Josephine Hegeberg (Sq) 1:11.79 (state), 2. Hannah Holmgren (Sehome) 1:12.46 (state); 400 freestyle relay: Sehome (Shirley Lam, Sophie Grambo, Ellie Poehlman, Gwen Roley) 3:59.51 (state); 2. Squalicum (Abby VonFeldt, Ivan Witt, Sydney Wong, Josephine Hegeberg) 3:59.69 (state).