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SLIDESHOW: SHS GIRS SWIM AND DIVE: Spartans sprint to Top 10
By Brenda Sexton | The Courier-Herald
“It was a really good day,” Sumner High senior Taylor Ditty said, summing up the Spartans’ 10th-place team finish and the pile of individual and relay medals they carried home from Friday and Saturday’s state Class 3A swim and dive championships at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“Being here and being top eight in everything, and getting third,” Ditty’s excitement kept spilling out.
“I’ve never been in the finals before,” said junior Emma Thompson, bubbling about the music that blasts through the pool as the top eight teams make their way through the cheering tunnel of fans on deck to the starting blocks.
“Making it back to the finals in so many things,” is what stands out in sophomore Sami Hendricks’ mind. Freshman Ashley Huynh nodded in agreement.
The Spartans cruised through Friday’s preliminaries nearly unscathed. The only casualty was Huynh in the 100-yard breaststroke, but she swam legs of the Spartans’ 200-medley relay and 200 freestyle relay – both of which made it to Saturday’s finals.
Ditty, Huynh, Emma Thompson and Sami Hendricks started off Saturday morning’s finals with an eighth-place finish in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1 minute, 56.10 seconds, not as hot as their preliminary time Friday of 1:55.57, which bettered the school record they set earlier in the season, but it earned them a spot on the podium.
Hendricks, a sophomore who raced to a 24.93 personal best in the preliminaries, kept up the rocket pace with an eighth-place finish in the 50 freestyle with a 25.10. Emilie Kaufman of Juanita won it with an all-American consideration time of 23.96.
Ditty picked up her top finish, third in the 100 freestyle, with a 53.88 in the finals. Her personal best in the preliminaries was a 53.80. Hendricks raced to a 54.30 for fifth place.
Ditty, who is looking at Washington State University, Northern Arizona University, Oregon State University and University of Nevada-Reno, said during her race she was reflecting on her career and how she came to state her freshman year and raced a leg of the Spartans’ 400 freestyle relay. She decided then she was going to work harder and joined a club team in the offseason.
“I was thinking how much it’s changed since my freshman year,” she said.
Hazen’s Lauren Kaufman won the 100 freestyle with a 52.60 and Jennifer Pak of Mercer Island was second in 53.32.
The Spartans’ day wasn’t done.
In the 200 freestyle relay, Ditty, Huynh, Thompson and Hendricks posted their best time, a school-record 1:43.07, beating their record set at the district meet. Their finals’ time earned them a sixth-place finish.
On a personal note, Thompson raced to a personal best 25.89 for her 50-yard portion.
Juanita won the event with a state record and all-American time of 137.77.
Ditty turned around and in less than five minutes had posted a 1:00.93 sixth-place finish in the 100 backstroke. In preliminaries, Ditty topped her own school record with a 1:00.54. The top two finishers raced to all-American consideration times.
Mercer Island edged Juanita for the Class 3A state title, 246.5-242. Kennedy was fourth with 204 points. After the first day of competition, the Spartans were sitting in fifth and were seventh before the day’s final event, the 400 freestyle relay, where most of the top teams, except Sumner, had an entry in the finals.
“We had outstanding swims,” coach Dana Powers said. “I’m so proud of them.”
As a first-year coach, it’s been a lot of work.
“You set their goals where you know they can achieve and you make them believe that they can get to that place,” Powers said. “They just swim fast because they believe in themselves.”
Powers said it takes a lot of dedication – morning practices, dry land training and the occasional weekend.
“They swim as a team and the team brings everybody’s level up. We also have a good core of support,” she said, pointing to the cheering contingent of Sumner students and parents.
Powers said the Spartans aren’t done; they will lose two seniors to graduation, one of those being Ditty.
“She’s a quality, fast swimmer and team captain...that will be huge,” Powers said. “We will miss the excitement and energy she brought to the team.
“I think we have a pretty good core pumped to make it here,” she said, referring to the state meet. She also mentioned a few talented eighth-grade swimmers waiting to make the move to the high school.
Those who return, like Thompson, Huynh and Hendricks, are already talking about next season. They’ve made plans to return to their club teams in the offseason and work hard.
There will be plenty to celebrate at the team’s Dec. 11 banquet.