The Mercerwood Shore Club pushed its win streak to 20 meets in a row, including its three consecutive Midlakes league-championship victories, with a 423-280 win over Newport Hills Thursday. But the return of the Mercer Island Beach Club to the top level of Midlakes competition and Mercer Island Country Club’s return to prominence has reheated a once fiery, yet friendly, three-way rivalry on the Island.
“There is definitely more of an Island rivalry this year,” said Mercerwood Shore Club coach Alice Godfred, whose team will host the Beach Club in a league meet for the first time in two seasons tomorrow night. “The Country Club is coming on strong. [coach] Chris [Simpson] does a good job over there.”
The Beach Club, which is coached by former Mercer Island High School graduates such as Grant Garcia and Tad Homchick, made the move back to the A level after a dominating season at the B level in 2006. But the Country Club won the first Island battle beating the Beach Club 412-291 Monday, June 11 at home.
“The excitement for the meet was very high,” said Simpson, whose team will face the Shore Club during the final meet of the season. “It was a great meet and fun to see all the kids swim against each other. It is more exciting to have the Island meets because everyone knows each other.”
All the Midlakes teams have struggled to get all their swimmers out to practices and meets with the season starting a week earlier than normal. The Beach Club and Country Club meet was moved from June 14 thanks to the Mercer Island High School graduation. The Shore Clubs’ first meet was also moved.
“There hasn’t been much time with the end of school and all the events going on,” said Godfred.
Despite the distractions all the teams have already shown a marked improvement from last year in their swim times and points scored. Swimming has never been as popular as it is right now on the Island.
“There are nearly 600 kids swimming between the three clubs,” said Simpson.
That number does not include the Island kids who go off Island to swim or who participate in swims at Mary Wayte Pool.
“That is far more than any other sport.”
For the Country Club, it has meant a jump in the standings. The team lost its first meet of the year to Edgebrook on Thursday but not in the fashion the swimmers have known the past few years.
“We lost by 156 points last year,” said Simpson. “This time we led the entire first half of the meet, and lost by only 50 or 60 points.”
In contrast the Beach Club’s improvement is the most obvious as it has moved up an entire division. Against the Country Club, the Beach Club took 16 first-place finishes. The amount of depth that the smaller Beach Club has been able to bring to the table has made it a threat this season.
That depth has been the fuel for the Shore Club during the past three seasons. Both the Country Club and Shore Club have seen a bump in swim times times thanks to winter and fall swim programs.
“It is nice to see kids swim year-round,” said Godfred. “We had 45 kids in our King Aquatics program this year. The winter swims make a huge difference.”
The Shore Club and Edgebrook have been the primary teams challenging for the league title over the past three years, and this season should be no different.
“They are still our toughest meet of the season,” said Godfred, whose Manta Rays will host Edgebrook July 5. “But that will be challenging for both teams because there will be a lot of swimmers gone for the Fourth of July.”
The Shore Club won its first meet of the year against Samena of Bellevue 441-261 on June 12. The Manta Rays set three individual team records and two relay team records during the meet.