Last season’s stellar accomplishments for the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) boys swim and dive team will surely sit firmly near the upper echelon of the list when the history of the program is written someday.
The Islanders capped off their undefeated campaign with a second consecutive 3A state team championship along with KingCo and district crowns.
They’re back at it again this winter with new head coach Craig Nisgor on board.
“We’re definitely kind of riding the wave. We’ve got a new coach, so some things are kind of changed up, but we’re hoping that we can carry that momentum,” said senior captain Coy Hounsell, adding that the Islanders possess another solid squad this time out.
Top returners from last year are seniors Emmett Ralston, Matt Williamson, Evan Liu, Matthew Shield and Joe Torky, and juniors Colin Carmichael and Jack Sieckhaus.
Ralston, also a captain this season, swam on the first-place and record-setting 200-yard medley relay and the winning 200-yard freestyle relay at state in February of 2022, along with taking third in the 100-yard breaststroke and fourth in the 50-yard freestyle.
“High school swimming is a lot of fun. It’s fast. It’s fun to swim with your friends and get state records and perform as well as you do. It’s motivating and I enjoy it,” said Ralston, who was joined by Shield on both relays and by Carmichael on the 200 free relay. Also at state, Williamson won the 200-yard freestyle and swam on the winning 400-yard freestyle relay with Liu and Carmichael.
Hounsell chipped in with some points at state by finishing 14th in the 50 free and 16th in the 100-yard freestyle. He’s been building on his technique and is aiming for state cuts in those events again this season.
Other senior captain Nolan Knievel listed his strongest and favorite events as the 100-yard butterfly, 100 free and the 200-yard individual medley.
On the leadership front, Knievel noted: “This year, sort of all of our goal is creating a cohesive sense of unity within the team.” Nisgor plays a major role in that realm and has been striving to make sure that everyone’s included in that push to achieve a communal atmosphere, Knievel added.
Nisgor, who coached Division 1 college programs for the last 20 years, wants everyone to maximize their time in the pool and unleash their best effort come competition day, Hounsell said.
Knievel added: “It can be pretty gratifying to not only represent but succeed on behalf of your own school.”
Ralston, who also competes on the club level for Olympic Cascade Aquatics, said that swimming on the Island is a big deal because youngsters have accessibility to four local pools and three summer league teams. They embrace the sport at an early age and stick with it throughout the years, he added.
Currently, the team is 1-1, with a win over Liberty (Renton) and loss to Newport in a meet where MIHS was minus some of its top swimmers who were competing at the junior nationals in Texas, according to Hounsell. A host of Islanders notched KingCo and district cuts against Newport.