Mercer Island girls swim back on deck | Girls swimming preview

The Mercer Island girls swimming captains include: Celia Tremine Nelson, Vee Vee Wang, Kiersten Picardo and Madeleine Chandless. - Megan Managan/Mercer Island Reporter
The Mercer Island girls swimming captains include: Celia Tremine Nelson, Vee Vee Wang, Kiersten Picardo and Madeleine Chandless.
— image credit: Megan Managan/Mercer Island Reporter

In high school swimming, scoring points are awarded to the top five swimmers in a meet. It’s not always necessary, given the depth of a team, to win every event, or even any at all to win the meet.

Mercer Island girls swimming head coach Chauntelle Johnson knows this well, having won last year’s state title with just four individual wins.

In order to get to the top again this season, which the Islanders have set their sights on, the team will once again have to not only dominate in KingCo, but in non-league matches.

“Our girls who are going to be on that border line between qualifying for the state meet, or not qualifying — we have to get them over that hump to qualifying,” said Johnson on keys to the season. “For us, our strength is our depth, and we have to use that to our advantage and use every single person to get to that point. Like I said before, it’s not just about winning events, for the girls on our team who are capable of winning events at state, but it’s going to take the girls who are going to be in the 9-16th place at the state meet that we need to help us get over the hump. We’re going to use that to our advantage, it’s something other teams in the state don’t have and that’s the thing that’s continued to set us apart.”

Helping the team in the pool this fall are captains Kiersten Picardo, Cecilia Tremaine Nelson, Vee Vee Wang and Madeleine Chandless.

“It’s going really good,” said Picardo. “We’re looking really strong so far.”

The team’s major goal is to bring home the state title for the third year in a row, and to go undefeated during the season.

“We talked about goals, and for a team that’s won state for the last two years, obviously that’s a goal again. I think that it’s well within their reach — they just have to continue to work hard,” said the coach. “The reality is other teams get better every year, and in order for us to be at the top, we have to be at the top, too. I think the girls understand that. They don’t take it lightly; they don’t feel entitled to win because they won in the past. It’s like, OK, we have a target on our backs.”

To get that perfect season record, the team has to get back opponents like Skyline, which the Islanders faced on Tuesday, after Reporter deadline, Bainbridge and 2A KingCo opponent Interlake. All four captains said Skyline was going to be the meet of the year, after last year’s meet went to the last race, with the Islanders losing by just four points.

For Johnson, she said Bainbridge’s program was on a big upswing, which should propel the team into the top rankings.

The swimmers know it will take hard work to get to their final goal — state — not just in meets, but every day of the season.

“Chauntelle always stresses working hard in practice and how it adds up,” said Wang, who swims the individual medleys.

“This group is just more mature than last year. There are a lot returning from last year. The kids that were on the district and state team were really young, so for them to be a year older, even though they are really young — they kind of know what is going on and they know what to expect from the season. Some of our kids that maybe didn’t qualify for districts and state last year know now what it takes to get to that level, so they are already trying to put in the work to get themselves to that level, which is great,” said Johnson.

She listed the team’s strength, besides depth, as focus. It’s a trait the girls have had from day one, Johnson said.

“I just think their focus is so much better than it has been in the last couple of years.  Even during meets, its little things like don’t miss your races, they all are already there,” said the coach. “They all have suits and caps – things that happen when you’re trying to run a sport aren’t happening, even for their first meet. They warm up well for their races, they are all here at practices on time and things like that.”

With all the focus the Islanders are showing, the team made a different type of goal this fall, one that pleased Johnson.

“The other goal that the girls made that I’m extremely proud of is they want to not only be state champs, but they want to be academic state champs. I think it’s great for them to set those goals for themselves in the classroom too. That’s very exciting,” she said.

The Islanders will travel to Juanita High School on Thursday, Sept. 22 for a 3:30 p.m. meet against the Rebels, before hosting Lake Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at Mary Wayte Pool.








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