Mercer Island High School’s boys swim and dive team attained its third consecutive 3A state crown on Feb. 18 at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. The Islanders also won recent titles in 2020 and 2022 (there was no state competition in 2021 due to COVID-19).
The Islanders, who finished atop the team table with 285 points, placed first in the 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard freestyle relay.
Evan Liu, Emmett Ralston, Matthew Shield and Coy Hounsell led the 200 medley relay to first with an automatic All-American time of 1:32.89. In the prelims, Jack Sieckhaus, Ralston, Shield and Hounsell registered a time of 1:34.34.
In the 200 free relay, Hounsell, Colin Carmichael, Ralston and Matt Williamson nailed an All-American consideration time of 1:24.53.
Mercer Island received second-place finishes from Liu in the 200-yard individual medley (1:51.72; 1:50.16 in prelims) and 100-yard freestyle (46.49), Ralston in the 50-yard freestyle (21.15) and Williamson in the 500-yard freestyle (4:30.55; 4:29.92 in prelims). With his prelims time, Williamson broke the oldest school record by 2.3 seconds.
Third-placers were Williamson in the 200-yard freestyle (1:40.13; 1:40.05 in prelims) and Ralston in the 100-yard breaststroke (56.25; 56.04 in prelims).
Williamson (both individual swims), Liu (200 IM) and Ralston (100 breaststroke) snagged All-American consideration times.
On the diving front, Shane Kornblum took 11th (230.70; 174.90 semifinals).
Senior Williamson said he was thrilled to pass former Islander record-holder Andy Lloyd, whose 500 free mark had stood since 1988. He noted that it’s tough swimming in multiple events at state with not an abundance of rest time, but he swam his best and gave the team a boost.
On his overall experience with the Mercer Island squad, Williamson noted: “It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve made a lot of close friends that I think I’ll talk to beyond high school. I’ve learned that not everything is about the individual. Even at the state meet, I feel like I kind of was focusing on the team aspect over the individual aspect.”
With the crowd cheering and creating an electric atmosphere at state, Williamson said it was a special meet for swimmers and divers to display their skills. The Islander relays were especially strong from front to back, noted Williamson, who will continue his swimming journey next season at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Liu, also a senior, summed up what stoked him during the state meet: “What I love most about going to state is the insane amount of support we receive when swimming. Seeing the familiar faces of my classmates and parents in maroon and white in the stands cheering for us is a wonderful feeling and something I will miss dearly.”
First-year Islander head coach Craig Nisgor, who previously coached for 20 years in the college Division I realm, said it was all about teamwork from start to finish for the Islanders this season.
“It came together as a team. Every time that I asked them to step up as a group, they definitely did,” said Nisgor, who mentioned an instance where the guys rallied to overturn a deficit during a dual meet.
With all teams registering faster swims this season, Nisgor said the state meet would be ultra-competitive.
“They did get hungry as a group with what they wanted to do and what they knew they could accomplish,” he said. “There’s no question, the team and the guys definitely had to step their game up, and I think that they knew what the goal was. They knew they wanted that to happen.”
For full finals and prelims results, visit: https://www.wiaa.com/results/swim/22-23/3ABoys/
Mercer Island also won the 3A SeaKing District title the previous weekend with 313 points and Lakeside was second with 187.