Mercer Island freshman Emmett Ralston practices on Dec. 31 at the Mary Wayte Pool. Benjamin Olson/staff photo

Mercer Island freshman Emmett Ralston practices on Dec. 31 at the Mary Wayte Pool. Benjamin Olson/staff photo

Talented group of freshmen off to a fast start for Islanders

The Mercer Island boys swim and dive team has 16 freshmen on board.

The Mercer Island boys swim and dive team enters the second half of its season with a talented group of freshmen that head coach Jennie King hopes will lead the Islanders to success in the pool this year and in the future.

There are 16 freshmen on the team and King said a handful of them should be in contention to place at the state meet. King said freshmen swimmers Matt Williamson, Matthew Shield, Emmett Ralston, Evan Liu and Joe Torky should be able to qualify and place at state.

“The depth they bring is great,” King said. “When you have guys who are able to come in as freshmen and are able to make an impact and place, it’s really nice. We lost some really good swimmers last year, so to be able to replace them so quickly with freshmen is really nice.”

Last season, Mercer Island finished second at the 3A state meet in Federal Way, just 14 points behind the champions, Bainbridge Island.

While falling just short of the state team title last year provides the team with plenty of motivation, King said the most important thing for her is to see every swimmer improve over the season.

“I want everyone to swim fast and have fun,” King said. “If we win state, that’s awesome, but that is not my sole number one focus. That would be wonderful, but there are other things that are also important.”

With so many freshmen, King said they are having to learn how to operate in a team-first setting, which is different than what they’ve experienced in club swimming.

“In high school swimming, you’re only allowed to swim two individual events and two relays. The second-, third- and fourth-place finishes matter just as much as the first-place finish,” King said. “So a deep team is going to go just as far sometimes as a team with a single superstar.”

Another key piece for the Islanders will be their two freshmen divers, Hudson Evernden and Tyler Blumenthal. King said having solid divers is crucial for any team that hopes to place high at state.

“I can’t even tell you how important it is. You can have everything, but if you don’t have divers, you’re not going to win state,” King said.”

Some of the freshmen swimmers who are hoping to qualify for state will have an opportunity to compete at the site of the state meet during the Kentridge Swim Invitational on Jan. 11 at the King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way. King said they will have 19 swimmers and two divers competing at the invitational.

King said with so many talented young swimmers, the future of the program is looking bright.

“We have all this wonderful talent now, but I look at what’s coming and I look at what these boys are starting to do and how young they are and what kind of growth they still have in front of them, and I’m like, ‘There are a lot of good things coming up for us,’” King said.

Matthew Shield, a freshman for the Mercer Island boys swim and dive team, flies through the water during practice on Dec. 31. Benjamin Olson/staff photo

Matthew Shield, a freshman for the Mercer Island boys swim and dive team, flies through the water during practice on Dec. 31. Benjamin Olson/staff photo

Matt Williamson (black cap) is part of a talented group of freshmen swimmers for the Mercer Island boys swim and dive team. Benjamin Olson/staff photo

Matt Williamson (black cap) is part of a talented group of freshmen swimmers for the Mercer Island boys swim and dive team. Benjamin Olson/staff photo

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