Sehome edges closer to NWC crown after tight win

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 28, 2014 

Sehome's fate is all its own.

The Mariners remain the only undefeated boys' swimming team in the Northwest Conference after defeating previously unbeaten Squalicum 93-92 on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center. With one more meet to go in the regular season against Anacortes on Thursday, Jan, 30, Sehome's reign atop the NWC can again see another year come and go without a loss.

But this Mariners team is a departure from that of years past, lacking the accustomed depth with only 18 swimmers - none of which are seniors. That hasn't lessened the expectations, though, with the culture of winning being firmly ingrained in coach Don Helling's group despite the growing level of parity amongst the other teams in the NWC.

"I started off the season saying, 'Guys, welcome to the swim team - continue the legend. ... Just keep going, and keep trying our hardest and keep pushing as hard as we can every single second,'" junior Josh Larson said.

Squalicum, while not bringing down the giant that is Sehome boys' swimming, sent an equally-as-powerful message by winning the final 400 freestyle relay and bringing the meet final to within one point.

For the Storm's coach, Randy Elsner, the chatter about potentially upending Sehome's reign leading up to the meet fell on deaf ears.

"People I run into, it's like 'You guys got to take down Sehome. You guys got to take down the legacy.' I'm just here to get these guys the best splits - the best times they can," Elsner said. "If you're going to do it, you're going to do it with your times. You're not going to do it by wanting to do it."

The 400 freestyle relay win for the Storm came with Jonathan Hegeberg holding off a hard-charging Larson in the final leg. Larson made up nearly a full body length on Hegeberg after swimming a personal best in the first 50 yards, but Hegeberg's touch at the wall came in at 3 minutes, 37.63 seconds, besting Sehome's time 3:37.92.

"I could kind of tell where (Hegeberg) was, but I was just focused on my line and just tried to get to the wall first," Larson said. "The last 50, it was really starting to hurt because the first 50 was a (personal record) for me. ... I was like, 'Oh my goodness. I have less than 26 seconds of pain and I'm done.' He beat me out, but it was a really good race."

The loss notwithstanding, Larson's performance as the anchor in the winning 200 medley relay (1:52.18) and after winning the 100 freestyle (52.38) left Helling excited for what is to come for his junior standout.

"Josh's anchors in the two relays were his best times by far," Helling said. "He's definitely coming along as good or better than I expected from him coming into this season."

The Mariners' Isaiah Grambo left little room for drama in his races, easily winning the 100 butterfly (55.96) and 50 freestyle (22.96). His most impressive performance of the day, though, came in the 200 medley relay. Grambo swam the third leg - the butterfly portion - and entered the pool a full body length behind Squalicum. Upon hitting the wall at the end of his 50 yards, he had staked Larson a cozy lead to finish the swim.

Like Grambo, Colin Hakeman won both of his individual swims for Sehome, taking first in both the 200 freestyle (1:56.44) and 500 freestyle (5:14.51).

"The fast guys did what I wanted," Helling said.

The same went for the Storm, which received strong performances from Rowan King among others.

King won the 200 individual medley (2:14.99) and the 100 breaststroke (1:07.88), but it was his come-from-behind swim in the 200 freestyle relay that captured Squalicum some much needed points and momentum.

King overtook Sehome to capture the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:37.07. Sehome touched the wall .01 slower at 1:37.08.

The Mariners' Calvin Richan brought home a win in the 100 backstroke (1:04.92), while also swimming well for 400 freestyle and 200 medley relay teams.

Sehome's undefeated season remains intact with the one-point win, but it wasn't the Mariners' first close run-in. Sehome defeated Bellingham 93-92 on Jan. 9, while Squalicum has consistently found itself on the winning end of close meets, besting both the Red Raiders and Anacortes 94-92 earlier this year.

"The whole season, it's amazing," Helling said. "One-point, two-point victories, it's incredible. I've never seen it, and I've been here since 1986."

Elsner added: "I'm looking forward to districts."

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates. Visit http://www.bellinghamherald.com/sports-blog/index.html for blog posts on the latest county sports news.

SEHOME 93, SQUALICUM 92

200 medley relay: Sehome (Calvin Richan, Joseph Adams, Isaiah Grambo, Josh Larson) 1:52.18; 200 freestyle: Colin Hakeman (Sehome) 1:56.44; 200 individual medley: Rowan King (Squalicum) 2:14.99; 50 freestyle: Isaiah Grambo (Sehome) 22.96; Diving: Wilson Dierdorff (Squalicum) 141.2; 100 butterfly: Isaiah Grambo (Sehome) 55.96; 100 freestyle: Josh Larson (Sehome) 52.53; 500 freestyle: Colin Hakeman (Sehome) 5:14.51; 200 freestyle relay: Squalicum (Hans Kogan, Bobby Bruce, Neall Koetje, Rowan King) 1:37.07; 100 backstroke: Calvin Richan (Sehome) 1:04.92; 100 breaststroke: Rowan King (Squalicum) 1:07.88; 400 freestyle relay: Squalicum (Neall Koetje, Lucas Roberts, Andi DeKoster, Jonathan Hegeberg) 3:37.63.

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