Larson emerges as state contender

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 19, 2014 

Sehome's Josh Larson swim in the 100 Freestyle as Sehome beat Bellingham 93-92 in a Northwest Conference boys' swim meet at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 in Bellingham.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Sehome's Josh Larson stares down 25 yards of open pool without the knowledge of anything else existing.

The other competitors have no affect on his mindset. Rather Larson sticks to his routine of stretching his legs before readying himself in the block before the other racers.

"I started doing that at the Anacortes meet (on Jan. 30), having a rhythm I go through," the Mariner junior said in a phone interview. "I do a clap to get myself focused. ... I look straight across my lane and focus on my lane and block everything else out."

Without the presence of a senior, Larson and fellow junior Isaiah Grambo have carried the tradition of excellence for Sehome's boys' swimming team.

The Mariners won a 10th consecutive Northwest Conference Championship this year after going 6-0 in league, and Larson, despite having largely no background in swimming before joining the team as a freshman, will compete in four events at the Class 2A State Swimming Championships on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21-22, at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

Larson qualified for the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle after swimming times of 22.68 seconds and 50.98, respectively, in the two events at districts. His time in the 50 free was the seventh fastest recorded this year amongst all 2A swimmers, standing as a testament to his straight-line speed.

"He's a well-round freestyle swimmer, and (an) explosive sprinter," Sehome coach Don Helling said in a phone interview. "Right now he has a great feel for the water."

Larson will also swim legs in two of the three state-qualifying relay teams for Sehome, although which ones exactly are still to be determined.

What is certain, though, is that Larson's temperament is one capable of bearing the responsibility of anchoring a potential state-championship winning relay. In fact, the mere possibility of that is one he's come to relish.

"It adds another level and a little pressure to the race," said Larson of anchoring certain relays. "And it's definitely fun. You have to give it your all to finish the race off, which I like, too."

At districts on Saturday, Feb. 15, Larson anchored the 200 freestyle relay. In his pre-race routine, he paced back and forth before taking his place, envisioning a certain time he had in mind - a goal more than anything else. In an instant, the Mariner junior launched himself into the pool chasing down Lake Washington and Anacortes.

"Before I swim my meets, I ... visualize the race I am going to swim," he said. "Looking up and seeing the times, it really helps us try our best in our meets. Imagining I am going to do a certain time helps me swim my best."

He bridged the gap between himself and Anacortes' swimmer, but a third-place finish would suffice. Lost was the reality that Lake Washington, Anacortes and Sehome, in that order, hold the three fastest times in the 200 freestyle relay heading into state.

Larson may again have his opportunity.

"Both him and Isaiah love to anchor races," Helling said. "You got kids who are super competitive."

Larson didn't come to Sehome with a pedigree of swimming. He was an athlete first, and somebody who had basic knowledge of swimming second.

And while much of his freshman year he was someone who largely swam out of Lane 1, Helling saw flashes of speed that would preface where the state swimmer is now.

No more was that the case, Helling remembered, than in a midseason meet against Hazen in 2012.

"At that point, we had a pretty strong crew a couple years ago, and he hadn't really stood out more than just a JV swimmer," Helling remembered. "Then he just blasted a swim that made everybody wake up. That's really when it happened."

With state just days away, a similar opportunity is presented to the junior. Only this time, it's just on a grander stage.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

STATE QUALIFIERS

CLASS 2A

200 MEDLEY RELAY

Sehome (5)

Bellingham (10)

Squalicum (13)

Lynden (18)

200 FREESTYLE School

Martin Sloley Bel. (5)

Colin Hakeman Seh. (12)

Trevor Nims Seh. (18)

200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY School

Rowan King Sq. (7)

Kean Rouse Bla. (11)

Logan Dozal Bel. (19)

Patrick Lisosky Seh. (22)

50 FREESTYLE School

Isaiah Grambo Seh. (6)

Josh Larson Seh. (7)

Hans Kogan Sq. (13)

Brisen Pearson Bel. (14)

Trent Olson Seh. (18)

Neall Koetje Sq. (20)

DIVING School

Griffin Korby Sq. (9)

Wilson Dierdorff Sq. (11)

Christian Herzberger Sq. (12)

Chad Cheldelin Bel. (14)

Gabe Kamkoff Sq. (23)

Trip Jackson Bel. (24)

100 BUTTERFLY School

Isaiah Grambo Seh. (5)

Brisen Pearson Bel. (16)

100 FREESTYLE School

Josh Larson Seh. (10)

Neall Koetje Sq. (15)

Trent Olson Seh. (21)

500 FREESTYLE School

Martin Sloley Bel. (4)

Colin Hakeman Seh. (8)

Trevor Nims Seh. (16)

Andi DeKoster Sq. (18)

Grant Williams Lyn. (20)

200 FREESTYLE RELAY

Sehome (3)

Squalicum (4)

Bellingham (10)

Lynden (19)

100 BACKSTROKE School

Michael Johnson Lyn (10)

100 BREASTSTROKE School

Rowan King Sq. (6)

Gabe Travers Bel. (10)

Nathan Kamkoff Sq. (11)

Joseph Adams Seh. (12)

Patrick Lisosky Seh. (14)

Jonathan Hegeberg Sq. (16)

400 FREESTYLE RELAY

Sehome (4)

Squalicum (5)

Bellingham (18)

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