FEDERAL WAY — Perhaps it is only appropriate that the program Bainbridge was chasing interrupted the Spartans quest for history.
Mercer Island won its first boys state swim title since 2014 on Saturday night at King County Aquatic Center, dethroning the three-time defending champion Spartans in the process, 313-289.5. The victory halted Bainbridge’s attempt to join the Islanders, the Wilson Rams and the Sehome Mariners as the only schools in Washington swim history to win more than three titles in a row.
“I’ve still got to be proud of our second,” said Bainbridge coach Kaycee Taylor, who announced that he would retire after this season and thus coached his last meet. He was named coach of the year for the state.
“It’s such an elite group to be in. To come up against a Mercer Island team swimming lights out today. If I think about it, all the work – I couldn’t be happier.”
The Islanders won six in a row from 2006-2011. Saturday was the school’s 10th title.
And for the third consecutive year, it was the two island schools engaged in a close battle for the championship. Bainbridge won by just 14 points a year ago, 414-400 over the Islanders, and by a 397-374 score in 2018.
“This was the goal all year,” said Mercer Island coach Jennie King, who is in her first year at the helm. “They lost by 14 points a year ago and it was heart-breaking for them. From the first meeting with the captains this year, they did the work.”
This one was close from the get-go.
Mercer Island took an early advantage by out-touching the Spartans in the meet’s first race — the 200 medley relay — 1 minute, 34.28 seconds to 1:34.44. By the time Oskar Bannister finished sixth in the consolation final of the 50 freestyle, Bainbridge had taken a slim 109-108 lead.
The Spartans would hold that advantage through the middle of the meet.
When Jude Wenker won for the second time of the evening, going 44.99 seconds to take the 100 free for the fourth consecutive season, Bainbridge still led it by more than 20 points. And the Spartans anxiously watched the scoreboard.
“Everybody has got their meet mobile (app) out, and are watching the points go back and forth,” Wenker said. “It’s a nail-biter.”
Coupled with Wenker’s meet-record swim of 1:38.11 in the 200 free, he was one of two double winners in the Class 3A meet.
“I’m really happy with it,” Wenker said.
Gig Harbor’s Billy Oates was the other double winner, taking the 50 free in 20.53 and the 100 back in 49.10. The Tides sophomore was named the swimmer of the meet.
The drama was all about the team race heading down the stretch. After 10 events, Bainbridge held a 255.5-248 advantage. Only the 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay remained.
The Islanders had two swimmers in the championship final of the breast — brothers Collin and Emmett Ralston — to Bainbridge’s one in Andrew Witty. When the Ralstons finished first and fourth, to score 35 points, and Witty was disqualified by a false start the streak was over so long as the Islanders didn’t get DQed in the relay.
Mercer Island finished fourth.
“It was every race, every race mattered from yesterday to this last one,” King said. “We were able to execute everything we needed to win the meet.”