The senior won two state titles last season, and he's looking for more, much more, at the state championships this weekend.
James Richardson knows things.
There’s swimming, of course. As a junior last year, Richardson won the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly state titles, was named the Class 3A swimmer of the meet and helped Mercer Island to a second-place finish behind Bainbridge in the team race.
Beginning Friday afternoon, Richardson will carry the top fly qualifying time of 50.55 seconds into the state preliminaries at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. His 51.50 in the backstroke is third, although most of the qualifying times for the state meets this weekend come with an asterisk.
That’s because most of the district events scheduled for last weekend were canceled because of the prolific snowfall that blanketed the state. Swimmers can qualify for state at any time during the season by swimming a state-qualifying time.
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But how not swimming for a week will impact the state meet remains to be seen.
“I think it will get the boys to be a little more itching to go,” Mercer Island coach Evan Moline said. “It will get them really wanting to race. They won’t have had those three weekends in a row of championship races.”
Swimmers who were on the cusp of hitting qualifying times to get into the meet, planning to make those cuts at districts, will be left at home as will the few that might have qualified by getting a high enough place at districts.
That issue does not affect Richardson, of course. He’s focused instead on loftier heights for his senior go-round.
“I’m really looking toward state meet records,” Richardson said. “Or state records. … But success would be our team winning.”
The meet records Richardson will chase are 48.56 in the back, set in 2013 by Kennedy Catholic’s Thane Maudslien, and 49.12 in the fly, set in 2014 by Bellevue’s Todd McCarthy. The overall state records in those events are 48.10 and 47.81.
Whether or not Richardson accomplishes any of those record feats, you can bet he’ll be a positive influence on his teammates.
“He’s just fun to have around,” Moline said. “He’s just an intelligent kid.”
Swimming is just one of Richardson’s interests.
He has been accepted to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While he can’t officially commit to the Boston-area school right now since it is a Division III institution in swimming, that is where he plans to go.
“I just love everything about S.T.E.M. pretty much,” Richardson said, referring to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. “I really enjoy mathematics and engineering.”
When his grandfather passed away a few years ago, Richardson inherited an arc welding kit. He’s played with some soldering and has built the frame for a go-cart.
“I’m just a curious person,” Richardson said. “I love learning new things.”
The Islander leader also likes to spend a little of his scarce free time with woodworking.
“He even tried baking a little bit,” Moline said. “He brought me a doughnut one day. It actually was pretty good.”
Richardson’s curiosity found a mantra in a quote from a former coach, who told his swimmers early on to, “Be a student of the sport. Don’t always just work too hard, work smarter.”
“That is something I think I have taken advantage of,” Richardson said.
Until, of course, it comes to sitting at CenturyLink Field with his dad at a Seahawks game. Or watching a basketball game.
Then, Richardson’s knowledge eludes him.
“I’ve gone to a few games,” Richardson said. “But they are wasted on me. I’m that guy who asks, ‘What is going on now?’ With a lot of team sports, I guess I didn’t like rules. And, I still don’t understand and don’t know what a foul even is in basketball.”
But that’s OK.
For now, swimming is the only sport Richardson needs to know.
State swimming and diving
When: Friday and Saturday.
Schedule: Prelims Friday — 1A/2A: 9:45 a.m.; 3A: 2 p.m.; 4A: 6:30 p.m. Finals Saturday — 1A/2A: 9:15 a.m.; 3A: 2:10 p.m.; 4A: 7 p.m.
Where: King County Aquatic Center, Federal Way
Top storylines: Two-time defending team champion Bainbridge has a chance to win at least half or more of the 12 titles this week. Bainbridge swimmers come in as the top seed in two of the three relays (and is second in the third), and top seeds in individual events include William Waite in the 200 IM, Kiernan Liberman in diving, Jude Wenker in the 100 freestyle and Kevin Houseman in the 100 breast. … Three local 4A teams enter the state meet this week with enough swimmers to make an impact. Skyline projects to score 265 points, based on qualifying times. Kamiak, last year’s runner-up to Camas, and Newport also look to be in the mix in a wide-open race that should also include Curtis and Moses Lake. … The 2A title might be going back to Pullman, which projects to score 285 points to Kingston’s 242 and Anacortes at 241.
Top 5 swimmers: Kiernan Liberman, Bainbridge, Jr. — The defending diving champion again has the top qualifying score entering state. … Alex Edwards, Mercer Island, So. — Qualified for the state meet in all eight individual events. Will swim the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyles. … Warren Briggs, Liberty, Jr. — Second in the 500 free and third in the 200 as a sophomore, the Patriot is one of three swimmers within a second of each other at the top of the 500 qualifying at 1:45.23. … William Waite, Bainbridge, Sr. — Defending champion in the 200 individual medley at 1:49.75 again has the top qualifying time in that event. … Vlad Gilszmer, Kamiak, So. — Owns the top qualifying time in 4A in the 500 free, an event in which he finished second a season ago. Second-best going into the meet? His brother Slava. Also will compete in the 200 free.
Favorites: 4A — Skyline, Kamiak, Curtis, Newport, Moses Lake; 3A — Bainbridge Island, Mercer Island; 2A — Pullman, Anacortes, Kingston
Last: Mercer Island coach Evan Moline can become the third consecutive Islanders coach to win a state title. Moline swam for the previous two. He there for the last two years of Jeff Lowell and the first two under Chauntelle Johnson.