Four Federal Way high schools battled to be city champions at the first ever All-City Girls Swim Meet last week. Marking the halfway point of the season, many swimmers are still on the hunt for league leads and postseason qualifying times.
Federal Way High School made a splash, winning the All-City meet with a total of 143 points.
“This is the first time we’ve had an all-city meet and there’s definitely a team rivalry between all four schools,” said Federal Way High School’s first-year head coach Naomi Forward. “It’s a friendly rivalry, but you want to win and you try your hardest.”
Forward erupted with excited cheers when she found out her team had become the All-City champs.
This All-City meet win, combined with the recent victory over Thomas Jefferson on Sept. 25, will help boost the Eagles’ confidence in themselves individually and as a team, she said.
“As a whole, we’re trying to learn each other,” she said. “Me as a different head coach for them and them as a team that I haven’t had before, we’re still trying to figure each other out.”
From Federal Way, a few swimmers have already made postseason cut times.
Junior Breanne Ross in the 100 free, 200 free, and 4×1 relay, 100 free, 4×1 relay, 200 free; sophomore Sarah Jacobson in the 200 individual medley (IM), 100 backstroke, 4×1 relay; and sophomore Caitlyn Lo in the 50 free.
Decatur followed with a close second of 136 points, but showed up strong in numbers with the largest team of the district.
“When I started [coaching] three years ago, we had 14 girls on the team,” said Decatur girls swim head coach, Sam Hunt. “This year we hit 50.”
Decatur holds second place in the NPSL 4A Olympic league after a mere 2-point loss against Auburn Riverside on Oct. 2.
“It’s pretty amazing to watch our team come together,” he said, noting the team has just as many newcomers as it does postseason-qualifying returners.
Although swimming is usually a solo sport, senior Evie Tucker says she finds relays most rewarding.
“I love being on a team with people, being a team player,” she said. “Swimming is really individual, but I love swimming on relays.”
Decatur’s 400 free relay team finished 20th in state in 2017, and hopes to return to state this year, Evie Tucker said.
Fellow relay members, sophomore Lilly Tucker, placed seventh in state in the 100 breaststroke last year and sophomore Kimberly Walling, finished 23rd at state in the 200 individual medley relay and finished 21st in the 100 butterfly for 2017.
With the need for faster times, the nerves spark up, said senior Jewel Spring from Decatur.
“I’m always nervous before a race,” she said. “But in my head I know being nervous means I care about swimming. It’s kind of a good thing sometimes.”
Springer made it to state her sophomore year, placing 9th in the 200 individual medley, and already has her state cut for this season, she said. She also swims the 100 back.
Thomas Jefferson Raiders finished third in the all-city meet with 92 points.
“Our strengths this season are definitely the sprinting races, the medley relay and our fly,” said TJ head coach Tori Head, who swam for nine years and is also a Decatur alum. “We have a lot of newcomers who have never competitively swam before, so a lot of the focus is on fundamentals and technique work.”
Despite the dedicated years many high school swimmers also spend competing year-round on club teams, some of TJ’s top swimmers are newcomers to the high school pool.
Freshman Hailey Lawless, 100 back, and freshman Sophia McDonald, who swims the 100 breaststroke and 50 free, agreed the swim team quickly becomes a family.
“I love it because it’s like a huge family that works hard and would do anything for each other,” Lawless said.
Junior Meredith Steward is a first-year swimmer for TJ in the 50 free, 100 free and relays.
“It’s very different from the other sports I’ve competed in — swim team is very much a family and cares about its swimmers while pushing them hard,” she said. “It’s my kind of team.”
Relay anchor and 100 fly swimmer junior Emily Nguyen said the team is encouraging and high energy. Team camaraderie is a strength between all four high schools, said Todd Beamer head coach Jen Larsen, who has coached the girls and boys teams for five years.
“They are doing so well at building each other’s self-esteem up and helping each other out during sets if they’re struggling, they definitely have the right swimmers etiquette,” she said, noting that swimmers stay in the water until all the swimmers are done with the event’s race and shake hands across lane lines afterwards. “That’s something we’ve really been building the last couple years and I’m really proud of them for that.”
For Todd Beamer, the top two swimmers also happen to be twins — juniors Madeline and Grace Ralstin.
Since their freshman year, the two have made strides in their individual events: Madeline primarily sticks to the 100 fly and 100 breaststroke, while Grace dominates the freestyle events in the 50, 100 and 200.
Beamer finished the all-city meet with a total of 61 points
“It’s the first time we’ve done this kind of meet,” Larsen said. “Hopefully this will be a fun jamboree that the swimmers all look forward to each year as the halfway point of the season, and proud to be a Federal Way kid.”
Girls swim postseason begins with the NPSL 4A League swim meet on Oct. 20 at Hazen High School, with the NPSL 4A League dive meet on Oct. 19 in Auburn.