Thanks in part to a meet-record performance by the 400-freestyle relay team, the Wolverines edge Lakeside 281-274 for the team title.
For the first time since 2013, a school other than Lakeside is the Class 3A state girls swimming champions.
Bellevue edged the Lions for the title at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way on Saturday, finishing with 281 points to Lakeside’s 274.
It was a back-and-forth battle throughout Saturday’s championship meet as the stage was set for that battle on Friday when the Wolverines had an impressive showing in the preliminaries.
“The way these championship meets work is that you have to set the table for yourself in the prelim meet,” Bellevue coach Andy Hay said. “We did a great job of that. We put ourselves in a position to win, and that’s exactly what we did. All we had to do was execute. We moved up a couple of spots and we didn’t make any mistakes.”
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Going into the 400-freestyle relay, the final event of the meet, the Wolverines held a 241-240 lead and had to feel good about their chances after qualifying first in the event. In the final, they did even better, not only winning but breaking the Class 3A state meet record with a time of 3 minutes, 29.16 seconds.
They finished with an even faster time at districts, but with the state championship on the line, Hay told his team to focus on getting the win, not the record.
“We were in a position where we could’ve broken our own state record from districts, but because we were in the scoring position that we were in, being up one point and them being second and knowing that we had been several body lengths in front of our competitors throughout the postseason, basically we went back into the staging area and (I) said, ‘I don’t care about the record, be safe,’ ” Hay said. “That was about as safe as it gets.”
Bellevue’s championship 400-freestyle relay team includes, sophomore Janelle Rudolph, sophomore Rachel Jin, junior Delora Li and junior Aneta Wyzga.
Lakeside had won the last three state championships, including a 10-point victory over Bellevue a year ago.
“I’m not a crier, but I had a moment,” an emotional Hay said. “You want it so bad for these kids, and they work so hard. Especially in high-school swimming, a lot of it comes down to coaches taking all the tools that they have and putting them together in the right formula for success. You’d feel terrible if you knew that your athletes were capable of doing something great like this, and you somehow robbed them of it by not doing your job to the best of your ability. I’m completely blessed, not just with the talent of our athletes, but with the talent of our coaching staff.”
In addition to the relays, Bellevue swimmers won four individual state titles. Li won the 100 butterfly in 56.30, Wyzga won the 500 freestyle in 4:58.50 and Rudolph won the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke in 23.02 and 54.80, respectively. Both times qualified as automatic All-American.
“Janelle is one of the most talented athletes I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” Hay said. “She’s extremely humble, but just by her actions she is a very, very powerful leader. She would be on any team. Literally I could put everything but diving on a dart board — and she probably could dive too, if she wanted to — and throw darts at it and that would be her events for that day, and she’d win.”
Rudolph was named co-swimmer of the meet, along with Lakeside freshman Amy Tang.
“I wasn’t expecting it, it kind of caught me by surprise,” Rudolph said. “Of course, I feel super honored to be able to share that title with her because she’s an awesome swimmer and I respect her a lot.”
• Though Lakeside was unable to defend its title, the Lions got off to a strong start. They won the 200-medley relay with a time of 1:44.58, breaking their own state record set in Friday’s preliminaries. Tang also won the second event of the day, the 200-freestyle with a time of 1:47.93, which set a Class 3A meet record and was an automatic All-American time. It was the first of two individual championships for Tang, who also won the 100 freestyle in 49.88, an automatic All-American time which also set a meet record and was just .07 off the state record.
• Snohomish freshman Kayli Kersavage won the diving title with a score of 395.80. It was one of the closest events of the day, as she edged Squalicum’s Helene Synnott, who scored 395.65.