A friendly rivalry begins anew: The Beach Club and Shore Club meet for the first time in two seasons

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Ellie Williams, 7, swims the 100-meter medley relay for the Mercer Island Beach Club Thursday at the Mercerwood Shore Club. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Ellie Williams, 7, swims the 100-meter medley relay for the Mercer Island Beach Club Thursday at the Mercerwood Shore Club.
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The second of three meets between Mercer Island Midlakes swim teams took place Thursday with the Mercerwood Shore Club extending its winning streak to 21 consecutive meets by defeating rival Mercer Island Beach Club, 522-186.

But just like the other three all-Island meets this summer, it wasn’t about the final score.

“There is a much higher intensity with these meets,” said Mercer Island Beach Club coach Grant Garcia, who has swam or coached for the Beach Club most of his life. “You get a little more nervous swimming against your friends but it’s just more fun.”

Although the score does mean bragging rights for a year, the teams also knew coming into the meet that the Shore Club had the upper hand. The Beach Club moved back up to Division I competition this past off-season after two years with low attendance due to the construction of the Club’s new pool.

“We’re just having a great time swimming against a good team,” said Garcia. “We are improving every year.”

The Beach Club saw the number of swimmers on the team increase significantly this season and is confident that will become a trend.

“We have about 190 kids this season, that is a lot more than last year,” said Beach Club coach Tad Homchick, whose team took fourth at the championship meet last year against both Division I and II opponents. “We will get more back next year, too.”

After two years of only facing the Beach Club at the championship meet, along with all of the other Midlakes teams, the intimate setting of the Shore Club lent itself to stoking a once hot rivalry.

“It’s great to see people you know,” said Shore Club coach Alice Godfred. “We are glad they are back in Division I.”

It seemed that nothing could bring down the festive atmosphere Thursday, not even a 20-minute driving rain storm. The races, conversation and competition went on despite the conditions.

“There is definitely a feeling of camaraderie,” said Godfred.

The move back to Division I has not been good for the Beach Club’s record, but has been good for the improvement of the swimmers on the team.

“It is just better competition,” said Homchick, whose team lost to the Mercer Island Country Club last week. “It was nice to get to swim at the Country Club. They have an eight-lane pool. All the facilities in Division I are better. All of our kids have had a great attitude about the move.”

The final score was fueled by the Shore Club’s huge depth advantage. The Mercer Island Beach Club took first place in just nine of the 68 events. Kyle Moline won two of those individual races and swam on both first-place relay teams. Sabrina Steinhauer was the top female Beach Club swimmer with two individual first-place victories.

The Mercerwood Shore Club finished the meet with eight different swimmers achieving multiple first-place finishes. Both Rachel Godfred and Dan Simmons led all swimmers with three individual first-place finishes. The Shore Club also had four individual club records and three relay club records during the meet.

The final all-Mercer Island Midlakes meet will take place during the last week of the regular season on Tuesday, July 10. The Mercer Island Country Club will host three-time defending league champion, the Mercerwood Shore Club.

But tomorrow could be the Shore Club’s biggest test of the year as it travels to perennial rival Edgebrook in Bellevue. The two teams have had some heated meets over the past three years, with one meet coming down to a disputed relay event. Adding to the rivalry will be the question of who will show up, as many families will still be on their Fourth of July vacations, possibly putting the win streak on the line.

“That is going to be our tightest meet,” said Godfred. “I have been begging people to come back early from vacation. But I think it will impact both clubs.”

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