Twice in a lifetime

Matt Phelps
On Sports

  • Monday, November 24, 2008 8:11pm
  • Sports

Matt Phelps
On Sports

Winning the KingCo title is not an easy quest. Mercer Island High School teams compete with eight other schools. The rivalries, such as those with Bellevue and Newport, add to the intensity of each game. Most 3A KingCo sports send multiple teams to state each season.

During the 2003-2004 winter sports season Mercer Island High School had one of its strongest groups of male athletes. It was the first time in school history when all three male winter sports — wrestling, swimming and boys basketball — won KingCo titles during the same year.

A clean sweep of league titles is realistically only possible during the winter season with three boys and two girls sports.

No combination of three teams for one gender has ever achieved the feat during fall or spring season for Mercer Island High School. There are many more chances for it to happen during fall or spring, as there are more team sports.

All things being equal, it may even be more difficult to achieve this level of domination during winter because there are less teams for the best athletes to spread out on. Therefore, you are facing the best the league has to offer. During fall season, for example, all the best athletes at one school may head toward three teams with small rosters, giving them a greater chance to take three KingCo titles in that season.

But the fact that one school could dominate an entire gender of sports is pretty amazing.

Only two other combination of athletes in Mercer Island High School history have come close to this feat.

In 1975 the Mercer Island girls track and field team won the state title. That same season, the girls tennis team also won the state title. But no other team won the KingCo title that year.

In 1998 the Mercer Island football team and the boys tennis team won the KingCo title that fall. That same season, boys water polo won the state title. This is the closest that any combination has ever come to the 2003-2004 winter sports. But boys water polo is a club sport and not sanctioned by WIAA. More importantly, not every school in KingCo has a boys water polo team.

In 2003-2004, athletes like Noah Blakney, Jesse Johnson and Tamon Page helped to guide their teams to league titles. Despite the fact that boys swimming has been so dominant recently and that boys basketball is a powerhouse every year, it was the first time that all three sports had won the KingCo title during the same season.

Normally, success breeds interest and less mainstream sports such as swimming and wrestling may lose their best athletes to, say, basketball. The sheer numbers of great athletes in one gender and at the school at the same time can be labeled coincidence. But the fact that the teams realized their potential in the same year is not.

Many teams have a high level of talent but do not live up to expectations. Injuries, school work and social differences within a team can ruin great seasons.

This winter sports season, the stars have aligned for Mercer Island. No one is going to stop one of the most dominant boys swim teams in state history from winning the KingCo title. Heck, no one is going to stop them from winning the state title.

The boys basketball team is in a great position to win its first KingCo title since 2004 with an undefeated record in league play and a two-game lead.

I was going to write this column earlier this season. After writing the sports previews for winter, I wondered if history would repeat itself. The loss by the wrestling team to Interlake just before winter break put things on hold. But the determination of the team and the combination of talent and leadership brought them back. The team will win the KingCo title with a victory over Newport tonight.

There is still a ways to go in the regular season for the boys basketball team. Six games remain, including one against Issaquah on Monday, which was postponed due to snow on Jan. 15, and one against Skyline and Newport.

The boys swim team will clinch an undefeated regular season with a victory over Newport tomorrow.

Winning the KingCo title is never easy, but sweeping all three titles in one season may just be a twice in a lifetime opportunity.

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