Last season, Bellevue won its first state team swim title since 1999, and the Wolverines are a heavy favorite to repeat come February.
BELLEVUE – Talk to the Bellevue boys swim team and a lot of sentiments rise to the surface.
“There’s definitely a vibe that is carrying over from last year,” captain Chase Johnsen said.
Added swimmer Yen-Wen Lin: “We’re a family.”
Swimmers to watch
Dave Makhervaks, Newport, Sr.: Defending 100 back champion
Ben Gore, Mercer Island, Sr.: Set to compete with Bellevue pair for IM title
Dean Nguyen, Franklin, Sr.: Won 100 breast, second in 100 free with All-America consideration time of 46.02
Emmett Wayte, Roosevelt, Jr.: Earned a pair of runner-up finishes, in 100 back and 500 free, a year ago
Grant Heisey, Shorecrest, Jr.: Looks to move up from second in 200 free a year ago
James Buchanan, Lindbergh, Jr.: Won 100 back title in 52.32 seconds as sophomore
Dillon DePriest, Kentridge, Jr.: Top underclassman (3rd) returning in 200 free
Jonathan Cook, Jackson, So.: Third in 100 breast at state as freshman
Jason Klein, Issaquah, Sr.: Second to Makhervaks in backstroke a year ago
Henry Limm, Kamiak, Sr.: Top returning 4A 500 freestyler, third at state as junior
And coach Andy Hay? “This is a group that is really interested in creating something more than points on the board. They’re interested in creating loyalty. They’re fully in it.”
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The sum of all those sentiments has translated, though, into a lot of “points on the board.” Last season, Bellevue won its first state team swim title since 1999, and the Wolverines are heavy favorites to repeat come February.
Bellevue advanced 18 swimmers to the state meet in 2015. Hay expects that number to be the same, or at least similar, when teams meet at the King County Aquatic Center on Feb. 19 and 20 for all three state meets in 2016.
“Sometimes, you have the right group at the right time,” Johnsen said. “A lot of things are coming together at the right time.”
Hay’s squad scores with its depth.
Bellevue did not win a single individual event a year ago. The Wolverines just scored with a plethora of Top 8 and Top 16 finishes.
Oh, and true to the team-centric nature of this squad, they swept the relays. The spirit of this team is something that is constantly evolving.
Over the two-week winter break, for instance, rather than actually breaking this team goes into two-a-day workouts to prepare for January’s stretch run in the KingCo Conference and the postseason that gets under way with the combined 4A/3A/2A KingCo Championships on Feb. 5 and 6.
And they’ll enjoy themselves, too.
Teams to watch
Bainbridge Island: Youth movement in full swing with bevy of dangerous freshmen having arrived on scene.
Lakeside: Back-to-back titles in 2012-13 was followed by a second-place finish in 2014.
Kamiak: Johnathan Ke, Walter and Henry Limm and company looking to get back in contention for 2009, 2011, 2013 champs.
Newport: Two-time defending 4A champions should be right there again come February.
Mercer Island: Six 3A titles and three second-place finishes over last nine years.
Redmond: Off to a 2-0 dual-meet start in a tough KingCo conference.
Issaquah: Coach Laura Halter’s team finished second in 2012, are perennially looking for Top 10 finishes.
Bothell: Cougars are building some depth with breaststroker Brandon Stride, backstroker Connor Brunke and individual medley swimmer Andrew Oh.
Archbishop Murphy: The back-to-back 2A champs in 2013-14 move into a new era after graduation of Stephen Boden.
Enumclaw: Off to a 3-0 dual-meet start in the SPSL 3A.
On New Year’s Eve, the Wolverines plan to meet for what is becoming an annual team-building event – the “7-alarm Wingdome Challenge.”
“The team vibe is the story,” Lin said. “The team buildup. I just feel like it’s a tradition.”
There is change, of course.
Most of the group that won a year ago returns, including brothers Thomas and Mitchell Eggenberger, Zack and AJ Rossman, Andrew Boden, Daniel Prang, Andrew Lee and Nathan Shao.
But Sebastian Steen, who finished second a year ago as a sophomore in the 100 butterfly, is gone. Steen moved back to Norway, where he hopes to make the Norwegian Olympic team, Hay said.
In essence, though, Bellevue picked up a free-agent signee in Henry Lucco, who has recovered from a broken wrist that kept him from swimming a year ago. Freshman Trent Allison also is expected to contribute come state time.
“I definitely feel like we are the team to beat,” Hay said. “Bainbridge scares the crap out of me, but not enough to lose sleep over.”
Bainbridge is the young up-and-comer, with a bevy of freshmen expected to be contenders in several events for years to come. But at least for this year, beginning with the relays, the Wolverines look too strong to be challenged.
“We have every intention of winning every relay,” Hay said. “And I want that 400 free relay record.”