Alia Malella may still be relatively new to Sehome’s girls’ swimming team, but she is very familiar with the state championship meet.
Malella, who attended Ellensburg last year, is the defending state champion in the 500 freestyle. This season she qualified for state in the 100 backstroke, 200 medley relay, 400 freestyle relay and the 500 freestyle.
She smoked the competition at districts in the 500 freestyle, winning by 14.43 seconds, but will have some more competition at the state meet.
“I’ve been doing really well in the 500, better than at this point last year,” Malella said in a phone interview. “I think my time at districts last year was slower than it was this year. I’m looking forward to that race.”
In relays, she has fit right in for the Mariners. She swims the first leg, the backstroke, which is the same leg she swam for the Ellensburg team that took second at last year’s state meet.
This season Sehome’s 200 medley relay team, which along with Malella includes Hannah Holmgren, McKenna Sakamoto and Sophie Grambo, have the fifth-best time in state, just 2.23 seconds off of the fastest team.
“I’m really excited to be part of a fast relay,” Malella said. “I’m up first, so my job is to get us as far ahead as I can, or keep up if there is another girl in front.”
Malella has been a welcome addition to a Sehome swim team that took third overall at state last year.
“She was definitely a great kid to have show up on the deck the first day, and definitely has a lot of potential,” Sehome coach Don Helling said in a phone interview. “Anytime you move and switch schools it can be tough, but she has made the most of it.”
With a defending state champ joining the team, Helling had to figure out where Malella fit in the Mariners’ lineup. He knew her best event was the 500 free, but she also fit in well in the relays, he said.
Malella also competed in the 200 IM last season, but didn’t qualify for state in it this year because of a shoulder injury, she said. Instead, she will be representing Sehome in the 100 backstroke, along with teammates Gwendolyn Roley and Megan Mundell.
“Back is her strongest stroke, outside of her free,” Helling said. “But it’s always hard to do the 500 free-100 backstroke split with only one event in between them.”
At districts, Malella and Roley pushed each other in competition for the district 100 backstroke crown, with Malella just edging Roley by 0.28 seconds.
“They haven’t been racing each other in meets because we haven’t had to double them up, but they work well together,” Helling said. “Their strokes complement each other, and they train in the same way and push each other. They’re both very tough competitors individually, but want what is best for the team.”
Malella hadn’t done the 100 backstroke much previously because of the quick turnaround to get ready for it after the 500 freestyle.
“I did it a couple of times (last season), but I didn’t think it would be good to do so quickly after the 500,” she said. “This season it was a better alternative than doing something I wasn’t good at.”
In her first season at Sehome, Helling has had Malella focusing on honing a few key mechanics in her main events.
“I’ve seen her working on her streamlines and breakouts,” Helling said. “She’s a very experienced competitor.”
Malella reiterated that the team and her relays have been very fast and worked hard this season.
“Our relays have been really focused and on point,” she said. “I’ve been really excited to be where I am, and I’m not as far off on my times as I thought I would be at this point.”