Mercer Island Reporter
Winning meets has not been a problem for the Mercer Island boys swim team this year. The district meet was no different as the Islanders dominated Hec-Ed pool at the University of Washington on Friday by beating the next closest team by 152 points. And while the Islanders won five district titles in the individual events, the five new state qualifying times may be the biggest victory for the team heading into this weekend’s state meet.
“We may end up with 27 state swims, so this has been a good run so far,” said Mercer Island coach Jeff Lowell. “They understand that they have to prepare for the races. They know they can’t just wish for a miracle.”
Two swimmers who are always focused on their races are juniors Murray Longbotham and Alex Hoff. Longbotham came away with a district title in the 200-yard freestyle (1:43.58), and Hoff won the 100-yard backstroke (54.04). Hoff also placed second in the 200-yard individual medley (1:58.64), while Longbotham finished third in the 100-yard freestyle. The two swimmers teamed up with Ian Fisk and Tyler Benster to win the 400-yard freestyle relay in a time of 3:15.91, beating the next closest team to the wall by nearly seven seconds.
The 200-yard relay team of Hoff, Andy Wingerson, Fisk and Kirk Harbaugh also won the district title (1:41.02).
Mercer Island junior Beau Riebe won the district diving title for the first time in his career and in dominating fashion. Riebe scored a total of 430.05 points, nearly 70 points better than the next closest competitor.
“He has his head in a good place right now,” said Lowell. “He isn’t worrying about the guys who are chasing him.”
Islander senior Mike Camp placed fourth overall at districts with a score of 323.75 to qualify for state but will be unable to attend this weekend.
Mercer Island’s focus this season has been on defending their two consecutive state titles during the state meet and potentially defending their national championship.
That run was boosted by three swimmers’ state qualifying times during districts.
Islander Chris Picardo picked up two state times, the first in the 200-yard individual medley and the second in the 500-yard freestyle. Eric Stadius accomplished his goal in the 100-yard backstroke.
“It was really exciting,” said Stadius. “Being surrounded by teammates who qualified was great. I have confidence that we will perform well at the state meet.”
Islander freshman Andy Wingerson qualified for state in the 100-yard breaststroke.
“He is a freshman, but he swims with absolutely no fear,” said Lowell.
Other Islanders dropped times during the meet. Sophomore Matt Wiens finished seventh in the 500-yard freestyle (5:01.31) but swam the race 10 seconds faster than his personal best. Depth was a big factor for Mercer Island as 18 swimmers or relay teams placed in the finals during the meet. Kyle Schaeffer (fourth, 1:50.49), Alex Tao (fifth, 1:51.49) and Benster (seventh, 1:48.59) all placed in the 200 freestyle, Fisk placed fourth in the 50- and 100-free, Harbaugh placed seventh in the 100 butterfly, Benster took second in the 500-yard freestyle, and Wingerson placed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke.
The team moves on to the state meet on Friday and Saturday at the King County Aquatic Center, where they won last year by over 100 points.
“They can’t go into the meet thinking about points,” said Lowell. “It’s all about racing. They understand the significance, and they take every opportunity seriously.”