Sehome boys’ swimmer Zach Shenkin easily could have gotten lost in his sister’s shadow. His sister, Audrey Shenkin, was one of the fastest freestyle swimmers to come through Whatcom County.
Zach, though, is showing there is more the Shenkin family has to give to Whatcom County swimming.
He has quickly become one of the key components to a Mariners team that has coach Don Helling “cautiously optimistic” about their season.
“He’s an all-around swimmer,” Helling said in a phone interview. “He loves swimming and takes the competition very seriously. He has high goals set for the high school season. I’m convinced that he’s going to be a big help to us in the postseason.”
The freshman standout swims in nearly every event and has qualified for state already in many of them.
With no particular distance or event picked out, it makes Shenkin a great asset to Sehome come postseason, when Helling can pick and choose events that will net the Mariners the most points.
“He obviously has a great feel for the water. He works very hard,” Helling said. “He hasn’t zeroed in on any one distance at this point in his swimming career, which I think is the way to go when you’re in the early stages of high school swimming.”
And while Shenkin is new to high school competition, he’s no stranger to competitive swimming.
He started in the sport seven years ago when his sister got him into it, and he fell in love with the pool after a year of competing.
“I like the reward from the hard work put in, dropping time and having great meets,” Shenkin said in a phone interview. “It’s a great feeling knowing your hard work has paid off.”
It was his prior experience that’s helped him out with Sehome as well, Helling said. Shenkin entered the Mariners’ pool along with a strong group of freshmen, including Rudi Berry and Sam Hunter. All three entered with plenty of experience, and Helling said he knew right away the talent was there.
“That whole group of freshmen came in with a swimming background,” Helling said. “Pretty much from day one, we knew they would be strong.”
Despite the familiarity with the sport, Shenkin wasn’t entirely care-free stepping into the Mariners’ locker room for the first time.
“It was a little nerve-racking filling the shoes of former stars,” Shenkin said.
But Shenkin has stepped in with no problems.
The freshman not only has excelled in his individual events, but also in the relays, two of which are ranked No. 1 in the state.
Shenkin currently owns Sehome’s fastest leg int the 400 freestyle relay and swims the backstroke on the 200 medley relay.
“He’s a smart swimmer,” Helling said. “Just coming on as a freshman, he definitely understands training and understands competition. He’s very competitive but very smart. He is definitely mature in the way he approaches his races. That works to his benefit.”
While qualifying for the 500 freestyle along with Berry, Hunter and Colin Hakeman in a dual against Burlington-Edison on Jan. 15, was the biggest standout moment for Shenkin in his eyes, he said he’s enjoyed competing on the relays.
“It feels awesome being a part of those. When the whole team is watching and you hit the wall with a new top time,” Shenkin said. “I think part of the success is having a good relationship with your team and depending on them as well. ... We all fit in so well with our different strokes and work good as a team.”
He could play an even bigger part for the Mariners once the Class 2A Northwest District Championships roll around on Feb. 13-14, as Shenkin and his team hope to compete for a state title.
Eventually, Shenkin said he would like to follow in his sister’s footsteps and swim at a NCAA Division I college. For now, though, Shenkin is just enjoying high school swimming.
And the Mariners are glad to have him.
“It’s exciting to have a freshman come on and be able to help out right off the bat the way that he has,” Helling said. “He’s definitely going to be right there at the top in state competition. He’s doing everything right so far.”