Storm, Mariners swim to close finish at state

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 22, 2014 

TACOMA - Through 11 events at the Class 2A State Boys' Swimming Championships, drama ceased to exist.

That could only last for so long, though.

Squalicum and Sehome stood on opposite ends of the spectrum as they were both shown the end to their respective swimming seasons.

The Mariners were stunned. What was thought to be a fifth-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay was negated after a ruling that Isaiah Grambo, the anchoring swimmer for Sehome, didn't touch the wall on his push-off for the final 25 meters.

"They said I didn't touch the wall, but I came in and I hit the wall - hit it with my toes - and got no push-off," Grambo said. "I still went a good time ... but I didn't think we were going to get DQ'd for that."

No team stood to gain more than the Storm, who finished sixth behind Sehome with a time of 3 minutes, 28.45 seconds.

Squalicum, thanks to disqualifications by both Sehome and Steilacoom, moved into fourth place, giving it 130.5 points for the meet and a seventh-place finish.

Sitting right behind were the Mariners in eighth with 124, also suffering from their disqualification in the 200 medley relay to begin the meet.

"Not really how we wanted it to happen," Squalicum coach Randy Elsner said. "We didn't want a DQ. We wanted to do it off swims, but we'll take it."

Elsner and Archbishop Murphy were of like minds, with the Wildcats earning the Class 2A state championship because of Steilacoom's DQ in the 400 freestyle relay. The Sentinels, before being DQ'd after the completion of the race, went from state champions in not only the final relay but the meet to being ousted from the race and relegated to a tie for third place.

Archbishop Murphy finished with 185 total points on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the King County Aquatic Center. Anacortes came in second with 178 points, followed by Steilacoom and Lindbergh with 172. Hockison rounded out the top five with 161 points.

Bellingham finished 16th with 61 points. Lynden and Blaine finished 30th and 34th, respectively.

No swimmer from Whatcom County emerged a state champion this year, but several performances, namely from Grambo, Squalicum's Rowan King and Bellingham's Martin Sloley, were podium-worthy.

Grambo finished seventh in the 50 freestyle., but his best performance didn't come until later in the 100 butterfly. The Mariners' junior placed fourth with a time of 53.28, a jump from his time of 53.91 in the prelims on Friday.

"What I really worked on, and I noticed this at prelims when I looked at Austin Barnard (from Archbishop Murphy), his underwaters are longer than mine," Grambo said. "I was with him for the first 50, and on the last leg he really got a body length ahead of me, and I was tired. If I can get better under water, I am going to do a lot better."

Sehome's coach, Don Helling, wasn't short with praise for his junior standout despite the DQ in the 400 relay. That, actually, was inconsequential to him concerning how Grambo swam Saturday.

"Isaiah was the best swimmer in Whatcom County (Saturday)," Helling said. "We're going to put this one aside and look to next year with everybody coming back, and we have the best swimmer in Whatcom County coming back even better next year. He's going to be fired up."

King offered some impressive displays of swimming, as well, being a freshman in his first state meet.

King finished eighth in the 200 individual medley, later capturing fourth place in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:03.66. He also led off the Storm's third-place 200 freestyle relay team.

All of that, he said, despite having a touch of jitters before entering the pool for his opening race.

"It's definitely more exciting than dual meets," King said. "You get a little pumped. It probably makes you swim better, but a lot of nervousness comes along with it, too."

As King took his place on the podium during the award ceremony for the 100 breaststroke, Elsner had the chance to place the medal over his accomplished freshman's neck.

"They gave me eighth and fourth, and I was like, 'Oh, that's awesome. I get Rowan,'" Elsner said. "It's very special. I was just thinking I want to get Rowan. Yup, alright, I was happy."

Sloley, the tall sophomore standout from Bellingham, put together a sixth-place swim in the 200 freestyle (1:52.66). He and Sehome sophomore Colin Hakeman, despite finding themselves in the B-Final of the 500 freestyle relay, swam one of the closest races of the meet as Sloley edged Hakeman by .61 seconds with a time of 5:07.61.

Sehome's Josh Larson finished eighth in both the 50 and 100 freestyle finals with times of 23.46 and 50.66 seconds, respectively. He also swam the opening leg of Sehome's fifth-place 200 freestyle relay team.

"We ended up with a lot of medals, and some solid swims," Helling said.

Squalicum's Wilson Dierdorff and Christian Herzberger finished in ninth and 10th, respectively, in the diving portion of the meet. Dierdorff put together a final score of 293.65, while Herzberger scored 287.50.

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

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