Isaiah Grambo was fairly nonchalant about swimming a Class 2A Northwest District meet record time of 22.38 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle.
But the significance of what he had accomplished shone through the Sehome senior’s laid-back personality after the race.
“It’s great to have your name up there when you leave,” he said. “Someone else will come along and beat it eventually, but it’s pretty cool. I was just focused on going fast.”
Grambo was also part of the Sehome 200 freestyle relay team that set a meet and pool record of 1:30.30 to take first at the Northwest District Boys’ Swimming Finals on Saturday, Feb. 14, at Fidalgo Pool in Anacortes.
That team, which included Josh Larson, Joseph Adams and Zach Shenkin, was more excited when it realized what it had accomplished. And Sehome coach Don Helling was even pleasantly surprised.
“I was hoping they would break 1:32, but they did more,” Helling said.
These two records were part of the reason why Sehome was able to capture a team title at the district championship meet with a score of 265. The team scores were close with Anacortes coming in at 243.5 for second, but the result was almost certain for much of the meet as Sehome led almost every time the team scores were announced throughout the meet.
“We had a big drop in the 400 free relay, but the biggest was the consolation swimmers who moved up to score us more points,” Helling said.
A few of those consolation swimmers even qualified for state with impressive times. Sam Hunter (2:11.05) in the 200 IM, Rudi Berry (1:51.27) in the 200 free and in the 500 free (5:01.76) and David Leung (58.38) in the 100 butterfly all made state by swimming fast enough times in the consolation races.
Bellingham took fifth as a team with 145 points, and was highlighted by Martin Sloley’s third-place finish in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:02.53.
“Martin had a little better day than yesterday,” said Bellingham coach Jeff Anderson, who was named the district coach of the year. “Yesterday was phenomenal, but we had some good best times today.”
Also impressing for the Red Raiders was their 200 medley relay team, which qualified for state with a 1:46.43 and was 0.01 seconds behind the fourth-place Sehome team.
Squalicum’s Rowan King won a crowded 100 breaststroke event, in which Sloley, Squalicum teammate Jonathan Hegeberg and Sehome’s Christopher Lo and Joseph Adams were contenders.
“Rowan competed and was dominant,” Squalicum coach Randy Elsner said. “I wanted him to get used to that level of competition before state. In duals there weren’t a lot of guys at his level.”
In a race with the top four qualifying for state by time, and familiar competition, King swam a 1:00.97 to take the district title in the event. Elsner estimated that time put King in the top two statewide for the classification.
“I wanted sub-one minute, but it felt good to get close,” King said. “I just wanted to get out fast. I know a lot of these guys (in the event) and it was good to go against them.”
Lynden had a big 100 backstroke from senior Michael Johnson. He swam a 1:00.38, missing second place by 0.05 seconds, but ensuring a trip to state with third place.
Lions coach Steve Gibb was most impressed by Johnson’s performance in another race, though.
“Michael’s medley was his fastest 50 split,” Gibb said. “He’s getting his speed up. Our relays did very well, so we’re hoping for some wild cards.”
Johnson swam a 27.84 first leg of the 200 medley relay, giving his team the third-fastest start in the race of all teams. He swam a 29.29 in the 100 backstroke.
Wild cards will be assessed by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) the next few days, giving some more Whatcom County swimmers and relay teams another shot at state glory.
Sehome will take the next week to both revel in its hard-fought district victory, and to mentally prepare for the next challenge of contending for a state team title.
“I’m proud of both the team spirit and the way they pulled together as a team,” Helling said. “It’s huge to have the talent, but you can have talent and not jell like this team did.”
Helling was hesitant to single out any one swimmer, but was impressed with the performances of Lo in the 100 breaststroke and Shenkin in a few races.
Lo held a personal best of 1:09.12 in the breaststroke this season, but blew that away with a 1:07.49 to take fifth in the event and put himself in contention for a wild card spot. His ferocity in the event was part of the team spirit Helling was looking for, he said.
Shenkin had one of the most overall successful days of area swimmers, as part of the 200 medley relay (fourth place), a third-place finish in the 200 free immediately following the medley relay and another third in the 100 butterfly. He was also in the record-setting 200 free relay team, and if that’s not enough, swam the anchor leg of the 400 free relay.
“Zach had an outstanding meet. He is a tough competitor and very mature for a freshman,” Helling said. “He raced with veterans at this meet, like (Archbishop Murphy’s) Austin Barnard who he faced four times.”
Though the high level of competition among teams in the Northwest District gives Sehome confidence heading into state, Helling was quick to point out that state is a whole new stage and level of competition.
The Class 2A Boys’ Swimming State Championships begin with the prelims on Friday, Feb. 20, and the finals at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
Class 2A Northwest District Finals
1. Sehome 265; 2. Anacortes 243.5; 3. Archbishop Murphy 199; 4. Shorecrest 185; 5. Bellingham 145; 6. Squalicum 136; 7. Burlington-Edison 78.5; 8. Lynden 52; 9. Sedro-Woolley 46; 10. Blaine 4
200 medley relay: Archbishop Murphy (Austin Barnard, Stephen Boden, Tony Mikhail, Bryce Lewis-Smith) 1:42.43; 200 free: Austin Barnard (Archbishop Murphy) 1:47.27; 200 IM: Stephen Boden (Archbishop Murphy) 1:58.65*; 50 free: Isaiah Grambo (Sehome) 22.38*; Diving: Elliot Forde (Archbishop Murphy) 477.30*#; 100 butterfly: Elliott Hofferth (Anacortes) 52.69; 100 free: Eric Olsen (Anacortes) 48.37*; 500 free: Stephen Boden (Archbishop Murphy) 4:48.90*; 200 free relay: Sehome (Josh Larson, Joseph Adams, Zach Shenkin, Isaiah Grambo) 1:30.30*#; 100 backstroke: Nick Turgeon-Orbe (Sedro-Woolley) 57.71; 100 breaststroke: Rowan King (Squalicum) 1:00.97; 400 free relay: Anacortes (Elliott Hofferth, Mikey Laws, Danny Schleh, Nathan Mathes) 3:20.12*.
*denotes meet record
#denotes pool record