The Mercer Island girls swim team has undoubtedly been one of the top teams in the entire KingCo 3A League in the pool during the 2017 season.
The Islanders, who have compiled an impressive 7-0 record in KingCo 3A dual meets, will face their toughest test of the season to date on Oct. 19 against the Bellevue Wolverines. Bellevue is undefeated in KingCo 3A action as well, courtesy of a 6-0 overall record. Islanders’ second-year head coach Evan Moline, who is a 2011 Mercer Island High School graduate, competed on the Islanders boys swim team from 2008-2011. The Washington State University alumnus believes his team’s best strength is its depth. There are currently 72 athletes including seven divers on the Mercer Island roster.
“We’re just very strong, well rounded and pretty deep. We got a lot of youth on the team too. The freshman and sophomores have been really strong the past couple of years. We got a bright future ahead of us,” Moline said. “It was always kind of in the back of my head with the thought of coaching at high school level. I started out coaching summer league teams and wanted to get back to the program that had done so much for me. I definitely made the right choice and I’m really happy that I have the opportunity to be here.”
Of the seven victories attained in regular season action thus far, the signature victory of the season to date was a 96-90 victory against the Bainbridge Island Spartans on Oct. 3.
“That was definitely my favorite meet of the year. The girls supported each other and wanted to see the best out of each other,” Moline said. “You could just see it in the girls’ eyes. It ended up coming down to the last event. The team camaraderie we have was something that pushed us toward that victory. I was really proud of the girls.”
Due to the sizable roster, the Islanders’ practice sessions feature an abundance of competition, which makes the squad that much stronger.
“It is tough to get everyone the equal amount of races in meets due to time constraints, but I think it helps everything else and is a contributing factor to the high attendance (at practice) and our work ethic. It is not a bad thing to have that inter-team competition pushing you as long as it’s a healthy competition and a healthy relationship,” Moline said.
The Islanders have already had a few athletes qualify for the Class 3A state meet in Federal Way. Annie Pearse qualified for the state meet in the 100 free after clocking a 54.98 against Bainbridge Island on Oct. 3.
“It was a lifetime best by almost a second. I thought that was an incredible swim from her. I asked her to just go out, get ahead and stay ahead. That is exactly what she did,” Moline said.
Islanders’ freshman Kaitlyn Williamson qualified for the state meet in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:01.43 against the Interlake Saints in a dual meet on Oct. 5.
“She swam that race like a veteran although she is just a freshman. She has been training hard. That was very exciting,” Moline said.
Mercer Island sophomore diver Sophia McGuffin, who captured ninth place in the 1-meter dive at the Class 3A state meet in November 2016, has captured first place in the 1-meter dive event in every single dual meet this year.
Moline said the tradition of excellence in the pool on Mercer Island is something his coaching staff and athletes embrace.
“The community is very supportive. There is a lot in our community in regard to swimming. Its cool to see the childhood sport that I grew up with is still carrying on and is strong as ever,” he said.
Moline’s approach to coaching is about much more than just wins, losses and first-place finishes.
“In regard to individual success, I want our athletes to feel like that it was worth their while and they were able to see those improvements whether it was in races, or in times and all of that kind of stuff. We want to create a true team and have a support system where they come back year after year. Seeing all of the freshman go all four years on the team would be great,” Moline explained.
In the near future, Moline expects the Islanders to bring home some hardware for the trophy case.
“I think as a team that a state championship would be great in the next couple of years. That is something that the Mercer Island community and program has seen so much of within the past decade or two. I think that trophy definitely needs to come back here at some point,” Moline said with a smile. “Especially with the youth that we have this year and the amount of talent and the commitment level that we have.”