High School Sports

Mariners’ youth sparks win

Same old Sehome.

Youth, youth and more youth.

Depth, depth and more depth.

Coach Don Helling’s Mariners did not have eight different individual non-senior winners in their 139-43 Northwest Conference girls’ swimming win over Bellingham on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center.

But — boasting enough runner-up finishers to go with the winners in every race — Sehome might well have displayed such a combination of youth and depth had the lineup been a bit different.

There were neither state times nor drama, but the young Mariners (4-0 NWC) showed they may have what it takes to produce both elements when they face Anacortes on Oct. 15 and defending dual-meet champion Squalicum on Oct. 21 to determine dual honors.

And Sehome now has not one, but two defending Class 2A state champions.

Senior Gwen Roley, last year’s 200-yard freestyle state titlist, won the 200 individual medley (2:24.87), less than a second off a state qualifying time, and claimed the 100 freestyle in 58.28, likewise, less than a second off the state standard.

Sophomore Alia Malella, a transfer from Ellensburg, won the 2A state title in the 500 free as a freshman and displayed her versatility Tuesday by winning the 50 free in 27.20 — while working on her speed for distance races — and claimed the 500 free in 5:42.63.

“She showed up on the deck at practice the second week of school,” said Helling.

Malella, though, is far from the only strong non-senior at Sehome to go with state meet veteran Ellie Poehlman and fellow senior Megan Mundell, who won the 100 backstroke in 1:10.54. They and Roley are Sehome’s only seniors.

Sehome sophomore Sophie Grambo took the 200 free with a career-best 2:13.77, junior McKenna Sakamoto won the 100 butterfly in a season-best 1:09.81, and junior Leah Day claimed the 100 breaststroke in 1:22.49.

Perhaps the most memorable display of the day, however, was junior Sunni Sternhagen’s diving victory for Bellingham (2-3 overall, 2-2 NWC) with 160.75 points on six dives.

“Sunni barely missed going to state last year, but she’s improved,” Bellingham coach Jeff Anderson said of Sternhagen, the only returning diver among Bellingham‘s three schools. “I think she’s got a great shot.”

Anderson — an enthusiastic sort who coaches in one of the state’s toughest 2A leagues — was especially gratified by sophomore Sydney Terrell’s first attempt at the 200 IM. Her 2:38.45 was good for second behind Roley and qualified Terrell for district.

“We had 30 season-bests,” Anderson said. “Anna McNab had a district time in the 200 free (2:16.78) and Terrell and Grace Dahl had district times in the 500. Terrell went 4 for 4 (including two relays) in best times and so did Emma Lochridge. I like to look at last year’s 24th (and last) qualifier for state and call that a possible state wild card, and that’s what Terrell’s 500 free (6:09.43) looked like. She’s closing in.”

Malella said Sehome’s girls “have been very welcoming.”

“I feel I’ve been completely accepted as a friend as well as a teammate,” Malella said.

Roley and Poehlman echoed that thought.

“Alia is very happy and perky and a good fit for our team,” Roley said.

“She’s just fun to be around,” Poehlman said.

As for Malella, she’s also discovered she’s happy to be able to say: “Sehome doesn’t begin practice until 6 a.m. and we started at Ellensburg at 5:30. I like 6 a.m. a lot better.”

Sehome’s depth was also on display in three relay wins.

Malella, Day, Sakamoto and sophomore Ava Baumgarten took the 200 medley in 2:06.95; Roley, Sakamoto, Grambo and Malella won the 200 free in 1:51.69; and Roley, Poehlman, Mundell and Grambo prevailed in the 400 free in 4:10.24.

Sehome 139, Bellingham 43

200 medley relay: Sehome (Alia Malella, Leah Day, McKenna Sakamoto, Ava Baumgarten) 2:06.95; 200 freestyle: Sophie Grambo (S) 2:13.77; 200 individual medley: Gwen Roley (S) 2:24.87; 50 freestyle: Alia Malella (S) 27.20; Diving: Sunni Stern Hagen (B) 160.75 points; 200 freestyle relay: Sehome (Gwen Roley, McKenna Sakamoto, Sophie Grambo, Alia Malella) 1:51.69; 100 butterfly: McKenna Sakamoto (S) 1:09.81; 100 freestyle: Gwen Roley (S) 58.82; 500 freestyle: Alia Malella (S) 5:42.63; 100 backstroke: Megan Mundell (S) 1:10.54; 100 breaststroke: Leah Day (S) 1:22.49; 400 freestyle relay: Sehome (Gwen Roley, Ellie Poehlman, Megan Mundell, Sophie Grambo) 4:10.24.

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