The Mercer Island boys swim and dive team celebrates with the Kentridge Invitational trophy after finishing first as a team on Jan. 11 in Federal Way. Courtesy photo

The Mercer Island boys swim and dive team celebrates with the Kentridge Invitational trophy after finishing first as a team on Jan. 11 in Federal Way. Courtesy photo

Mercer Island boys swim and dive takes first place at Kentridge Invitational

The Islanders finished first as a team and had 14 state-qualifying times at the meet on Jan. 11.

The Mercer Island boys swim and dive team put together a dominant performance at the 29th annual Kentridge Invitational meet on Jan. 11 in Federal Way. The Islanders had a team score of 737, finishing well ahead of second-place Kamiak, who finished with 454.5 points.

“We had 14 state qualifying times, we had a bunch of best times and we won by almost 300 points,” head coach Jennie King said. “It was a nice win.”

King said that finishing first at the meet with 32 other high schools from Washington will be good for the team’s confidence.

“They were so excited to win that trophy,” King said. “We keep stressing, ‘Let’s focus on swimming fast each week, let’s focus on setting new best times, having fun and doing the right things in the pool and the wins will come.’”

The meet was held at the King County Aquatic Center, the same location as the state meet. King said it’s great for the younger swimmers to familiarize themselves with the pool before the state meet in February.

“It’s like a dry run for what the state meet is going to look like,” King said. “They’re seeing a lot of the same swimmers they’re going to see at state that they may have not seen already, so it helps get them into that mindset.”

Mercer Island swimmer Collin Ralston won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:55.91, beating teammate Kieran Watson, who finished second. Ralston and Watson also finished first with the 200-yard medley relay, along with Brandon Peterson and Ethan Schwartz. The relay team finished three seconds faster than it has all season.

Kings said that Ralston and Watson are two swimmers that she can always count on to swim fast and finish hard in close races.

“I can put those guys anywhere and I know they’re going to perform,” King said. “If I need a fast anchor swim, those two are solid.”

Schwartz also had a strong meet, finishing second in the 100-yard backstroke along with being part of the 200-yard relay team. Earlier in the week, Schwartz narrowly missed qualifying for state in the 100-yard freestyle, but he was able to bounce back at the meet on Saturday. Despite not feeling good on the day of the meet, Schwartz made state cuts in both the 100-yard backstroke and the 50-yard freestyle.

“He was able to pull out great swims,” King said. “For him to come back on Saturday and to make two state cuts was huge. He came up big in both of our relays too.”

The Islanders had a busy week leading up to the meet in Federal Way, picking up wins over Issaquah on Jan. 7 and Sammamish on Jan. 9. King said the busy schedule was good for the team because it allowed the Islanders to take a break from practices and to focus on racing.

“Those were normally days we’d be putting in some heavy yardage (at practice),” King said. “When you’re racing during the week, you’re in that racing mentality for the weekend, so it definitely helped us prepare to race at Kentridge.”

By getting so many swimmers qualified for state, King said they can focus on putting swimmers into the events that help the team and not have to worry about getting a specific state cut.

As they wrap up their regular season, King said there are still things for the Islanders to focus on before the postseason.

“Obviously, the postseason is important, but we still have meets in front of us,” King said. “We still have a number of other swimmers who are working on getting their district cuts and their KingCo cuts.”

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