BELLINGHAM - An eruption bellowed through the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center after the Sehome boys' swim team found out it had edged Bellingham by a single point.
Heading into the final event - the 400 freestyle relay - the Red Raiders held an 86-85 lead, but the understanding amongst the respective coaches and swimmers was that this was a one-race meet. Whichever team secured the 400 freestyle relay would most likely take the back-and-forth battle between two of the better boys' swim teams in the Northwest Conference.
And once all the swimmers emerged from the chlorine-enriched pool, Sehome's Isaiah Grambo was the first to reach the wall and the Mariners left the pool with a 93-92 win Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center.
Grambo entered the pool for the final 100 meters already having a five-meter advantage, but he continued to distance himself from Bellingham's Martin Sloley for a convincing win in a time of 3 minutes, 35.87 seconds. Trevor Nims, Josh Larson and Colin Hakeman combined to swim the first 300 meters of the Mariners' winning relay team.
Grambo, a junior who just moments earlier swam in the 100 backstroke, paced back and forth like a lurking predator as the first few Sehome swimmers finished their respective legs.
"I was like, 'We got the lead. I'm still going to push it,'" he said. "Honestly, I wanted to make sure I got enough air so I didn't die. My legs were hurting kind of bad. I was like, 'OK, get enough air so my legs could be working. Just push it.'"
Grambo's dominant day wasn't solely confined to the final 400 freestyle relay, either. For the first time this season, the junior swam in the 100 butterfly. Safe to say his time of 55.23 seconds - 7.65 seconds faster than Bellingham's Brisen Pearson - showed little rust.
"He doesn't have a weak stroke," said Sehome coach Don Helling. "He's the kind of guy that swims up for big meets. If he is swimming this well midseason, I am just thinking he's going to have a heck of an end of the season."
He also swam in the winning 200 freestyle relay team and the 100 backstroke (1:00.88).
Not to be overlooked was the fact that the one-point difference was the closest margin ever in the Bellingham-Sehome boys' swimming rivalry.
"It was real exciting, and Don (Helling) was real worried. ... That's good to see that we can get him worried," said Bellingham coach Jeff Anderson. "The boys swam their hearts out. I am real proud of them. There is another battle at districts coming."
The Red Raiders cast the first two stones behind the lead of Sloley, who won three of his four races in the meet. He anchored the winning 200 medley relay team to start the meet, and then he followed that up with a strong 200 freestyle race with a time of 1:55.66. He edged Sehome's Hakeman by a slight three-meter margin.
"Martin (Sloley) is a monster," Anderson said. "He's a competitor. You get to see fire in his eyes."
He edged Hakeman again in a grueling 500 freestyle race with a time of 5:15.87. Hakeman came in with a time of 5:19.725.
The most exciting and competitive race of the meet came in the 100 breaststroke when Gabe Travers held off Sehome's Patrick Lisosky and Joseph Adams. Travers, who finished with a time of 1:11.07, was holding off a hard-charging Lisosky in Lane 2. Lisosky finished in 1:11.35, and with three meters to go, Travers lifted his head from the water and glanced over at Lisosky, but a final breath gave him the win.
"Bellingham swam out of their skulls," Helling said. "The (100 breaststroke) was head-to-head the whole way."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
SEHOME 93, BELLINGHAM 92
200 medley relay: Bellingham (Logan Dozal, Gabe Travers, Brisen Pearson, Martin Sloley) 1:50.12; 200 freestyle: Martin Sloley (Bellingham) 1:55.66; 200 individual medley: David Leung (Sehome) 2:24.56; 50 freestyle: Brisen Pearson (Bellingham) 24.26; Diving: Chad Cheldelin (Bellingham) 112.25; 100 butterfly: Isaiah Grambo (Sehome) 55.23; 100 freestyle: Josh Larson (Sehome) 54.13; 500 freestyle: Martin Sloley (Bellingham) 5:15.87; 200 freestyle relay: Sehome (Isaiah Grambo, Joseph Adams, Trevor Nims, Trent Olson) 1:38.64; 100 backstroke: Isaiah Grambo (Sehome) 1:00.88; 100 breaststroke: Gabe Travers (Bellingham) 1:11.07; 400 freestyle relay: Sehome (Isaiah Grambo, Colin Hakeman, Josh Larson, Trevor Nims) 3:35.87.