A dominant diving duo and strong senior leadership propelled the Mercer Island swim and dive team to a fourth-place finish at the 3A state swim and dive meet on Nov. 16 in Federal Way.
Mercer Island finished the meet with a total of 202.5 points, just behind Bainbridge Island in third place with 203 points. After finishing fifth as a team last year, the goal this season was to finish in the top four teams. Head coach Chauntelle Johnson said they had a solid meet and were happy to move into a trophy position.
“To be fourth as a team and only .5 points away from being third, was a pretty great accomplishment for this group,” Johnson said. “We only had seven swimmers and two divers compete in the meet, so to look at that many girls competing and to score over 200 points, is really impressive.”
One of the top swimmers for Mercer Island was senior Cayla Prophater, who finished second in the 500 free and fourth in the 200 free along with being part of two relay teams that finished fourth and seventh.
Johnson said the divers have been one of the biggest strengths for the team this season, and that was no different at state. Freshman diver Brooke Andrews placed second and senior Sophie McGuffin was third.
“To know that our divers, meet in and meet out, were just so much better than everyone else almost all of the time, was incredible,” Johnson said. “I’ve had the privilege of coaching teams in the past that had solid divers, but I would say these two have been hands-down the best duo of divers I’ve ever had.”
Andrews said the divers on the team are always looking to improve their technique.
“They were all such an amazing group of girls, everyone was so focused,” Andrews said. “Every practice, everyone was determined to get a new dive or work on something they hadn’t tried before.”
Andrews, who has competed with McGuffin in club diving, said the senior has been an important piece of the team this season.
“She’s been such a rock for the (swim and dive) team and I’ve loved diving with her,” Andrews said.
The state dive competition consisted of multiple dives with prelims and semis on the first day and finals held on the second day of competition.
“It’s a really cool experience,” Andrews said about finishing fourth with a finals score of 402.75. “I haven’t competed in competitions like this. They’re so much fun and I’m excited to continue for the next three years.”
The KingCo teams represented well at the state meet, with Newport winning the 4A title, Bellevue winning in the 3A competition and Liberty winning in 2A. Johnson said they benefit as a team racing against the top schools in the state all season.
“I think that when you have teams and a league that is that deep, every single meet, every single race, we’re seeing some of the best kids in the state,” Johnson said. “I think it keeps us sharp and it keeps us on our A-game. We’re really lucky that we get to have that high level of competition every week.”
Johnson said the biggest thing to take away from this season has been the seniors and how they’ve worked to get the most out of their final season and to help guide the younger swimmers.
“They’ve put everything they could into this season,” Johnson said. “So for the team to end up with a trophy, I think it’s a kudos to them for being willing to do anything and everything they could to make this season as positive as it could be.”
Johnson has seen the team grow by leaps and bounds from the beginning of the season. If there was an award for most-improved team, Johnson said they should win it.
“I look at where we started at the beginning of the year and the obstacles that we went through,” Johnson said. “We had one of our state-level athletes from last year end up with an injury that ended her season, so to experience that and for us to still be where we are, I think it shows how strong these girls are and how bad they wanted to be the best they’ve ever been.”
After finishing the season strong, Johnson said they hope to carry the momentum from this season into next year and to continue to improve.
“The goal is for us to take the stuff that the seniors gave us as a gift and to learn from it and build off it,” Johnson said. “I think that is really what has made the Mercer Island program so amazing, year after year, we’re able to learn things from each other and keep getting better from that knowledge.”
Andrews said she is excited for her second season with the team and is ready to put in the work to get even better.
“I’m looking forward to improving and getting better next year,” Andrews said. “I would like to get first next year.”
Diving: Brooke Andrews (second) and Sophie McGuffin (third).
200 Medley Relay Team: Katie Williamson, Grace Olsen, Mira Tang and Ellie Bailey (fourth)
200 Free: Cayla Prophater (fourth) and Hailey Vandenbosch (13th).
200IM: Grace Olsen (seventh)
50 Free: Ellie Bailey (16th)
100 Fly: Hailey Vandenbosch (10th)
100 Free: Ellie Bailey (12th)
500 Free: Cayla Prophater (second)
200 Free Relay Team: Ellie Bailey, Flora Cruzen, Hailey Vandenbosch, Cayla Prophater (seventh)
100 Back: Katie Williamson (10th), Mira Tang (11th)
100 Breast: Grace Olsen (seventh)
400 Free Relay Team: Cayla Prophater, Mira Tang, Hailey Vandenbosch, Grace Olsen (fourth)