Swim takes KingCo meet title

Every in-state boys swim team that the Islanders have faced this season has lost. Not by 10 or even 20 points, but usually by 100 points. Saturday was no different, as Mercer Island earned 418 points at Mary Wayte Pool for the KingCo championship meet title. The next closest teams were Newport at 229 and Issaquah at 203.

“I am not worried about these guys getting complacent,” said Mercer Island boys swimming head coach Jeff Lowell. “They are focused on improving.”

In a normal year Mercer Island would gather strength from its depth. This season the Islanders not only have that trademark depth but some powerful swimmers and divers at the top.

“We have 19 or 20 swimmers going (to the state meet) and 16 more that could get state times,” said Lowell. “They are all focused on being a part of that meet.”

One Islander who was focused even before the season began is sophomore Alexander Hoff. The swimmer became just the sixth Mercer Island athlete to earn a state time in all eight individual events to earn ‘Ironman’ status. Hoff joins a list of swimmers that includes Sean Sussex and Jeff Guyman, two of the greatest athletes in the progam’s history.

“It tells you how hard this guy has worked during the offseason and he has come through,” said Lowell.

Hoff continued his torrid pace with a first-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle (1:48.18) and a second-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle (49.29) during the KingCo meet.

“It was my goal from the beginning,” said Hoff, about his ‘Ironman’ status. “The breaststroke was the hardest for me to get.”

Hoff’s victory in the 200 freestyle came at the expense of two of his teammates as Ian Fisk (1:48.26) and Alex Tao (1:52.09) placed second and third respectively. The Islanders took first in eight of the 12 events.

Islander Michael Camp wrote his own ticket to state three days earlier during the diving portion of the meet with a final score of 345.5 points. His score was second to teammate Beau Riebe’s first-place score of 442.10.

Mercer Island teams not only crossed the state qualifying barrier in the 400- and 200-yard freestyle relays, they also set meet records. Hoff, Fisk, Tyler Benster and Murray Longbotham swam to a time of 3:16.26 in the 400. The mark beat previous record by seven-tenths of a second that was set in 2003. Jeff Benca, Kyle Schaeffer, Fisk and Hoff won the 200 in a time of 1:30.11 erasing a Bellevue team’s record.

In individual races Longbotham continued to do what he does best — win. The sophomore took first in the 100-yard backstroke (56.67) and the 100-yard butterfly (53.97).

Blake vanHartesvelt also won an event for Mercer Island, the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 22.92.

One of the most remarkable individual races for the for Mercer Island was the 500-yard freestyle. None of the Islanders competing in the event took first, but it seemed like they took every other spot available. Mercer Island finished the event with 10 competitors placing in the top 18 spots.

“The entire meet was just a good team effort,” said Hoff. “A lot of guys stepped up.”

The Islanders will continue on to districts Thursday and Friday at Hec Ed. Pool on the University of Washington campus. Both the prelims and finals begin at 5 p.m.

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