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Swim takes second at state
Godfred and the 200-yard freestyle relay team win state championships
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
Gearing up for the state swim meet starts, for some teams, at districts. For teams like Mercer Island, the focus begins during the preseason. That constant drive culminated Saturday at the King County Aquatic Center as the Islanders placed second overall as a team with 242.5 points behind Kennedy High School (286).
“This is what we’ve been working for, and they swam well,” said Mercer Island swim coach Jeff Lowell.
The high team placing would not have been possible without the program’s first individual-event state titles since 2002.
The first championship was a bit unexpected following the prelims on Friday. Mercer Island junior Rachel Godfred was nearly one full second out of first in the 200-yard individual medley and came into the finals as the No. 3 seed overall. Godfred got a good jump from the blocks, but none of the top five swimmers in the race could gain a substantial lead.
“I wasn’t feeling that good during prelims, but it is one of my favorite events,” said Godfred.
It came to no ones surprise that Godfred continued to stay close as the swimmers went through the four different strokes. The junior qualified for the “Ironman” award, earning state qualifying times in all of the regular season’s individual events, for the third consecutive season.
“You get all of those strokes in if you get the Ironman, so it was good practice for the individual medley,” said Godfred.
The race came down to the final turn and the junior sprung off the wall with a little extra speed. As she emerged from under the water, she had the lead. Alice and Gordon Godfred, along with the other Islander fans in the stands, realized she had a shot, standing and screaming. Lowell gave a fist pump as Godfred touched the wall (2:07.95) nearly two seconds faster than her prelim time.
“It was cool to get it,” said Godfred, who won her first state title on her mother’s birthday. “You never know who is going to come along next year, they could be faster than you.”
Godfred won a second first-place medal six events later. The Mercer Island 200-yard freestyle relay team came into the finals as an underdog as well. The team had qualified with the second fastest time during prelims, but the pressure came from the scoreboard as the Islanders needed to win the race to keep pace with Kennedy, which was the third seed in the event.
First into the water was Islander freshman Lauren Poli, who set a new school record in her leg with a time of 30.6 seconds.
“She got us off the blocks really well, and Bliss gave us a lead during the second leg,” said Lowell.
Bliss, the only senior on the team, left nothing to question.
“I was really nervous ’cause I knew that we needed that race,” said Bliss.
Bliss handed off to sophomore Jennifer Pak, who kept the team close. Godfred hit the water for the anchor leg of the race and charged to the finish. The team earned an All-American Consideration time by completing the race in 1:38.76. Kennedy would finish third.
“I have never won before,” said Bliss in her final high school meet. “It felt really good.”
The Islanders continued to score big points in the relay events by taking second in the 200-yard medley relay. Islanders Olivia Boeck, Poli, Melissa Chandless and Hannah Bliss completed the race in a time of 1:51.29.
In the 400-yard freestyle relay, Pak, Godfred, Chandless and Olivia Graham placed third overall with a time of 3:40.28. The three relay events combined gave Mercer Island 106 points.
Godfred’s third-place final in the 100-yard butterfly was the only other top-five finish for Mercer Island. The junior completed the race in a time of 58.36.
Chandless picked up her third and fourth medals of the meet during the 100 butterfly as she took eighth with a time of 59.86 and took seventh in the 200-yard individual medley (2:15.30).
“I was just glad to get to the podium,” said Chandless, who is a senior. “It is kind of sad that this is the last time, but I am glad we are doing so well.”
Poli also got to the podium one more time as she finished seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:09.11). The freshman also finished 10th (24.97) in the 50-yard freestyle, behind Bliss, who won the consolation final (24.77).
Graham’s eighth place finish (5:26.52) in the 500-yard freestyle capped Mercer Island’s medal collection.
Mercer Island’s trademark depth came into play during the 200-yard freestyle consolation final as Pak took ninth (1:58.61), Graham took 11th (1:59.39) and Sarah Petrini took 14th (2:01.40).
Pak also finished 11th in the 100-yard freestyle (54.88) with Bliss just behind her, finishing 13th (55.00). Petrini also raced a second time on Saturday, taking 12th in the 500 freestyle (5:25.02).
Islander junior Sara Markwith finished the 100-yard breaststroke in a tie for 13th place with a time of 1:11.64, while Boeck took 15th overall in the 100-yard backstroke (1:03.78).
“I am loving every second of this meet,” said Boeck, a senior. “But it is sad, and I will miss this.”
Frost takes third in dive
Mercer Island resident and Seattle Prep student Holly Frost punctuated a commanding diving career with a third-place finish at state. Frost began her diving career at Mercer Island High School, diving for the program during her freshman and sophomore seasons before transferring to the Panthers’ team. Frost collected 406.65 points during the competition and was just two-tenths of a point from second place.
“The competition was very stiff, one-through-three,” said Frost. “I was only out seven points until the final dive.”