Swimming sensations: Enge and Wayte meet up to discuss their stellar careers

Mary Wayte Pool was the spot for the insightful conversation.

In a momentous occasion, the past and present splashed together on a recent Sunday morning on Mercer Island.

Carrying roses and a sparkling smile, Mary Wayte arrived at the pool that bears her name to meet up for a conversation with Mercer Island High School (MIHS) senior star swimmer and record-setter Piper Enge. Sporting an immense grin, Enge accepted the flowers and embraced Wayte, whom she’d never met before.

“This is a really important connection to make from our aquatic past in the region and for our future aquatic successes that we’re seeing,” said meeting arranger Susan Pappalardo, president and co-founder of SPLASHForward.

Wayte, an Island native who now lives in Seattle, notched two Olympic gold medals in the 200-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter freestyle relay (preliminary heat) at the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles. Mercer Island city officials named the pool after Wayte during those Olympics and held a festive hometown parade for her that summer.

At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Wayte earned a silver medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay and a bronze in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Enge notched six individual 3A state titles during her three-year prep swimming career, has lit up the pool in national and international swim meets and will next compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials from June 15-23 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. She will compete in the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes and the 200-meter individual medley.

The Bellevue Club Swim Team member has committed to compete for the University of Texas-Austin in the fall. She recently secured a NIL (name, image and likeness) partnership with SPLASHForward, an Eastside-based nonprofit 501-(c)(3) organization that is dedicated to building the first new comprehensive public aquatic facility in Bellevue in more than 50 years.

During a portion of the visit with Wayte, Enge pointed up at the MIHS swimming and diving record board that features Piper’s name in eight spots. Also represented in the maroon-and-white lofty environs with records are Alexa McDevitt, who will also compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials, and Clare Watson and Gracyn Kehoe, who both competed in the Canadian Trials in May. Watson will compete for Team Canada’s Junior Pan Pacific team at that competition in August.

Enge knows all about Wayte’s history and was thrilled to match a face with a name on June 2, the morning after Enge’s prom.

Wayte is an icon to look up to, Enge said, adding as they locked eyes: “Having a conversation and seeing that she’s gone through the same things I have. Everybody hears about the medals she won, nobody hears about the times that she… I didn’t know you got DQ’d at the Olympics.”

Intently listening in, Wayte said that was one of many tearful moments during her decorated and stressful career.

“I’ve had some epic failures in my life. And it was my epic failures that contributed to my epic success,” said Wayte, noting that she and Enge shared swimming war stories during their time together. “Piper was talking about a recent performance that Piper wasn’t happy with, and so now has the opportunity to turn that into success because of what you learn. It’s all a journey.”

The USA Swimming Foundation board member said that it’s super exciting to have Enge follow in her proverbial footsteps and will be rooting for her at the Olympic Trials.

Enge, who will graduate on June 8 and turn 18 the following day, said that training for trials in Bellevue has been grueling and invigorating while she elevates her speed and confidence levels.

“Mentally, I’m definitely ready. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she said. “It’s all just a super fun and exciting time for me. Obviously, I’m doing things a little differently than everyone around me. As much of a bummer as it can be sometimes, I know that I have different goals than they do and we’re each gonna have fun and you’ve kind of gotta pick and choose what you need to focus on.”

As families and individuals walked through the doors and toward the water of the Mary Wayte Pool, the Olympic champion said it’s still a surreal experience — filled with mixed emotions — to see her name emblazoned throughout the facility.

“My very first time here, I was 9. I trained here from 9 until I was 18 and have really fond memories of this building, but not just the building — the community,” Wayte said. “Mercer Island as a community, the high school, my friends really embraced what I was doing and really rallied around me, were super supportive. I felt a lot of love from Mercer Islanders. Mercer Island has such a special place in my heart for everything that everybody did for me.”

Enge and Wayte are both strong proponents of having public pools dotting the region. In a previous story, Enge noted that pools are fun places for recreation, community building and learning dedication to achieving personal goals.

From left to right, Piper Enge and Mary Wayte discuss their swimming careers on June 2 at the Mary Wayte Pool on Mercer Island. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

From left to right, Piper Enge and Mary Wayte discuss their swimming careers on June 2 at the Mary Wayte Pool on Mercer Island. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo