Make it 40 dual meet wins in a row. Make it five straight undefeated regular seasons. Make it 11 consecutive conference championships.
The Sehome boys’ swim team continues to solidify itself as the class of the Northwest Conference.
On Thursday afternoon, Jan. 29, at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center, the Mariners proved it again, coming up with a 100-85 victory over Anacortes to claim the NWC title.
“We knew going into it, it was going to be a really close meet,” senior Isaiah Grambo said. “Everyone knew they had to swim up and do their best.”
The meet matched all the hype, as the two undefeated NWC teams went toe to toe throughout the afternoon.
It started with sparks in the first event, the 200 medley relay. Sehome boasted the top-ranked squad in the state but Anacortes took it the distance.
It wasn’t until Josh Larson’s final leg that the Mariners pulled away, eventually winning by a little more than two seconds. The Mariners, although already ranked tops in the state, set a new best time this season with a 1:42.44 in the relay.
“It was fun to watch,” Sehome coach Don Helling said. “Looking at the splits, I knew they were ready to do something special.”
The ability of Anacortes to keep it competitive signaled the Seahawks weren’t going to roll over and the next two events went their way.
It wasn’t until Grambo’s 22.42-second 50 freestyle that the Mariners got back on top in an event. Grambo’s time marked a new best for him this season and ranks as the second-best time in the state, as he topped Anacortes’ Nathan Mathes by .37 seconds.
Zach Shenkin also improved to a second-ranked state time with his 53.52 in the 100 butterfly.
“Shenkin’s fly was just out of this world,” Helling said.
The competition only got more dramatic as the afternoon progressed.
In the 100 freestyle, Grambo once again found himself in tight quarters with the swimmers in the lanes next to him. On his left was Mathes and on his right was Anacortes’ Eric Olsen.
The three remained neck and neck until the end with Olsen taking the top time with a 49.92. Grambo finished with a 50.33, a second faster than his season-best, and Mathes timed a 50.41.
“I was really focusing on the guy on my left. I felt really good. I saw I was beating him,” Grambo said. “Then on my right, I noticed he was creeping up a little bit so I just went as hard as I could.”
The race directly after, the 500 freestyle, proved to be one of the best races of the afternoon. Sehome freshmen Zach Shenkin and Sam Hunter battled with Anacortes’ Danny Schleh for more than five minutes. Schleh won the race by .16 seconds over Shenkin. Hunter set a new state time with his third-place finish.
“One of the races I really enjoyed watching was the 500 free with Zach Shenkin and Sam Hunter,” Grambo said. “Watching Zach, who had just swam the fly, and then Sam climbing back up there and going fast, it was real great.”
Colin Hakeman set two new state times in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke, which he won with a 59.28.
Although the Mariners pulled away with the win in the end, there was some pressure to continue the streak, especially with the Mariners’ celebrating their nine seniors. Still, Sehome was confident.
“I don’t know if there was ever any real doubts but we knew it was going to be close so we raced to make it close throughout the whole thing,” Larson said.
The Mariners now begin their taper heading into the postseason, which starts with districts on Feb. 13. After an important victory Thursday, the Mariners are confident but they know postseason is a whole new ball game.
“We all know that the lineups and scoring are different in championship meets. We just have to shift gears,” Helling said. “Hopefully the kids are going to have a little more in the tank going down this stretch.”
Sehome 100, Anacortes 85
200 medley relay: Sehome (Zach Shenkin, Joseph Adams, Isaiah Grambo, Josh Larson) 1:42.44; 200 freestyle: Danny Schleh (Anacortes) 1:51.19; 200 individual medley: Elliott Hofferth (Anacortes) 2:06.27; 50 freestyle: Isaiah Grambo (Sehome) 22.42; Diving: Jared Hanson (Anacortes) 190.90; 100 butterfly: Zach Shenkin (Sehome) 53.52; 100 freestyle: Eric Olsen (Anacortes) 49.92; 500 freestyle: Danny Schleh (Anacortes) 5:03.18; 200 freestyle relay: Sehome (Isaiah Grambo, Joseph Adams, Zach Shenkin, Josh Larson) 1:33.02; 100 backstroke: Colin Hakeman (Sehome) 59.28; 100 breaststroke: Joseph Adams (Sehome) 1:06.80; 400 freestyle relay: Anacortes (Danny Schleh, Nathan Mathes, Elliott Hofferth, Mikey Laws) 3:25.13.